WeWriWa—Alla’s accident



Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. Today, to mark the 15th anniversary of a car accident that almost killed me, gave me second-degree burns, and left me unable to walk for eleven months, I’m sharing an excerpt from The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, the second volume about my Russian characters (which is long overdue for its final polishing and release!).

Some years back, I posted an earlier part of this scene in a post for the now-defunct Six Sentence Sunday hop, It’s April 1927, and Lyuba’s closest stepsister, Alla, was knocked over and run over by a Bugatti after she ran into the road to rescue Lyuba’s baby Katya. Shortly afterwards, an Essex with Alla’s ex-boyfriend, Daniil Karmov, drove up, and Karmov immediately came to Alla’s assistance.

Bugatti Type 44, Copyright Herranderssvensson

Ivan hands Katya to Lyuba and tries pushing the Bugatti over on its side, the way he’s seen cars flip over in the movies.  Karmov goes to the other side as the driver shouts at them.

“Don’t let him drive off without taking down his license!” Katrin says. “He needs to be reported to the police for running over a pedestrian!” She pulls a pen and a notepad out of her purse and goes around to the back to write down the identification number.

Karmov’s friend in the Essex pulls Alla onto the sidewalk as soon as the car has been lifted up just far enough to give her space to escape.  The Bugatti owner drives off shouting at them and calling them dumb immigrants and agitators.

“He’ll go to jail for leaving the scene of an accident he caused,” Katrin predicts. “What a jerk.”

Hudson Essex Super Six, Copyright Addvisor

Next Sunday, which is a much happier anniversary, I’ll have some good news to share.

WeWriWa—The conversation continues



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, when Violetta asked Igor if he’d like to catch a subway with her. Igor was very confused to learn someone from Greenwich Village takes the subway when NYU is right there in the neighborhood, and Violetta meanwhile assumed Igor walks all that way home to the Lower East Side.

This has been edited somewhat to fit 10 lines.

1948 Ford Super Deluxe 8 Coupe, Copyright sv1ambo, Source 1948 Ford Super Deluxe 8 coupe

“I actually drove my great-aunt’s new car,” Igor says, indicating the burgundy vehicle in the distance. “It’s a Ford Super Deluxe 8 Coupe.  Ilyushka gets to borrow her older car, a Buick Limited, and her first American car, a Rochet-Schneider, is now owned by my cousin Vasya and his wife.”

“Yes, I know Vasya and Dusya; they were counselors at my old summer camp, and such nice friends.  We still visit regularly.  Maybe you can work at my dedushka’s camp next year, or teach part-time at the church school.  I bet the kids would love such a nice art teacher, since you could do all sorts of art projects, beyond the boring stuff they usually do.  My littlest sister Flora and my brother Fernand will be campers next summer.  It’ll be Flora’s last summer there, before she’s too old.  She missed one summer due to a long illness, and it made her so sad.”


The long illness suffered by Violetta’s youngest sister was polio too. They caught it from a swimming pool in 1942, together with two of Igor’s cousins (who got off with non-paralytic polio which resolved in about a week). Camp was closed that summer, due to so many children in the church community being sickened. Flora blames herself for Violetta’s illness, since she asked her big sister to take her into water above her head.

The middle sister, Ariadna, was spared because she was away at a sleepover that weekend. Fernand, the family baby, was born when Violetta and Flora were in hospital.

Igor’s great-aunt and great-uncle have been able to buy all these nice cars because his great-uncle is a prince from the House of Golitsyn.

The Red Porch, Rochet-Schneider, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and Russo-Baltique



Tsar Aleksandr II bowing to the people from the Red Porch

The Red Porch, also called the Red Staircase, leads into the Palace of Facets in Moskvá’s Kreml. On the morning of a new Tsar’s coronation, he and his Tsaritsa set out from the Red Porch under a canopy held by 32 generals. The Imperial couple, along with the Imperial regalia, proceeded towards the Cathedral of the Dormition for the crowning and anointing. Afterwards, the newly-crowned couple would proceed back to the Red Porch, where they’d rest up for the great banquet in the Palace of Facets. Starting with Tsar Nicholas I, the Tsar would stop on the Red Porch to bow thrice to the assembled crowd. This gesture symbolised “an unspoken bond of devotion between ruler and subjects.”

Sadly, the porch was destroyed in the 1930s, and not rebuilt till 1994.


The Rochet-Schneider, my next-most desired antique automobile

In my alternative history, one of Tsar Aleksey II’s cars is a dark blue Rochet-Schneider which he receives as a 21st birthday present from his uncle, Grand Duke Mikhail. He’s not allowed to drive, but he’s not forbidden to ride in cars altogether.

The Rochet-Schneider was a French luxury car which was manufactured from 1894–1932. True to their luxurious nature, they were made of hand-crafted wood, brass fittings, and patent leather. They were primarily intended for wealthy hobbyists, not normal motorists looking for something affordable like a Ford.

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Copyright sv1ambo, Source 1921 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost dual cowl phaeton

In my alternative history, the future Tsaritsa, Arkadiya Mikhaylovna Gagarina, gets a ride from her hotel to the Aleksandr Palace in a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. She hasn’t appeared at a recent empress-consort audition of morganatic princesses, because she has no interest in that role and is also held back because she’s seven years older than the Emperor. Additionally, she hasn’t been feeling well. Shortly after she sends away the important-looking people who came to her hotel, she’s interrupted again and compelled to return to the palace to be nursed back to health. It turns out she has diphtheria.

In real life, Grand Duke Mikhail also owned a Silver Ghost, and gave one to his wife Natalya as a birthday present. The Silver Ghost was one of the most luxurious, high-end cars in the 1920s, a limousine in its day and age. It was manufactured from 1906–26, with under 10,000 models. Today, it’s believed to be the world’s most valuable car, at over $35 million.

The Russo-Baltique

The Russo-Baltique was one of the Russian Empire’s first cars, manufactured from 1909–23. Tsar Nicholas II owned a Russo-Baltique. Today, only two original models are known to still survive.

The Dowager Empress and the Duesenberg



Empress Mariya Fyodorovna, née Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar of Denmark, 26 November 1847–13 October 1928

Princess Dagmar, called Minnie, was the fourth child and second daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark (Father-in-Law of Europe) and Queen Louise Wilhelmine Frederikke Caroline Auguste Julie (of Hesse-Kassel). Her closest sibling was her older sister Alexandra, Queen of England from 1901–10. Indeed, their sons Nikolay (Nicholas II) and George so resembled one another as to be frequently mistaken for one another.

In 1864, Princess Dagmar was betrothed to Tsesarevich Nikolay of Russia, Tsar Aleksandr II’s heir. Nixa, as he was nicknamed, was cut from the same liberal, reforming cloth as his father. Alas, Nixa took sick on a tour of Southern Europe, and died of meningitis on 24 April 1865, aged only 21. Dagmar was heartbroken, not only over the loss of Nixa, but also because she’d become so emotionally attached to Russia and her would-be parents-in-law.


Engagement photo with Nixa

Nixa’s last wish was that his younger brother Aleksandr (Sasha) should marry Dagmar, and in June 1866, they became betrothed. She was warmly welcomed into the Romanov family, converted to Russian Orthodoxy, took the name Mariya Fyodorovna, and became Tsesarevna after her marriage to the future Aleksandr III on 28 October/9 November 1866. By all accounts, this was a very happy, loving marriage. Unlike many previous Tsars, Aleksandr III never cheated on his wife, and was a loving, involved father.


Their marriage produced six children—Nikolay (Nicholas II), Aleksandr (died at 11 months of meningitis), Georgiy (died in 1899 of TB), Kseniya, Mikhail (the short-lived final Tsar, by some views), and Olga. After they assumed power in 1881, they moved from Anichkov Palace to Gatchina Palace. During her reign as Empress, Minnie really shone at court, and the Russian people adored her.

In 1919, she and her daughter Kseniya’s family escaped the new Soviet Union on the HMS Marlborough, sent by her nephew King George V. Though a woman of her stature didn’t make it a habit of mingling with commoners, she was such an inspiration and help to her subjects while they waited for rescue. Her final act on Soviet soil was refusing to get on that ship unless all the wounded soldiers and any civilians wanting to escape were also evacuated. The British listened to her!

She ultimately settled in her old summer home Hvidøre, south of Bellevue Beach in Klampenberg, Denmark, with her favourite sister, Alexandra. She passed away at age 80, having outlived four of her six children.


In my alternative history, after the restoration of the monarchy, the Dowager Empress returns to the Mariyinskiy Palace in Kyiv, and, as in real life, isn’t afraid to give her opinion on her late daughter-in-law Alix and how royalty should behave. She doesn’t have a cordial relationship with her one living daughter-in-law, Countess Natalya Brasova, since Natalya is a twice-divorced commoner instead of a royal princess of the blood. She’s also horrorstruck Aleksey wants to go to the Sorbonne instead of immediately coming to the throne in his own right and marrying as soon as he’s of age.

Copyright Stahlkocher

The luxurious Duesenberg (manufactured 1921–37) is far and away my most-desired antique car. I love it so much, I frequently write it into my books. I’d be like a pig in slop if I ever actually owned one of these beauties. Who wants to start out with a fairly affordable, easy to find Model T when you can have a beautiful Duesenberg?

In my alternative history, Aleksey receives a dark blue Duesenberg as an 18th birthday present from his oldest sister and brother-in-law, Grand Duchess Olga and Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich (the younger).

The Cathedral of the Dormition and the Chrysler Imperial Touring




The Cathedral of the Dormition, Copyright Татьяна Чеп (Tatyana Chep)

The Cathedral of the Dormition, also called Assumption Cathedral (Russian name Uspenskiy Sobor), is on the northern side of Cathedral Square in Moskvá’s Kreml. It’s surrounded on all sides by the Palace of Facets, Ivan the Great Bell Tower, and the Church of the Twelve Apostles. This beautiful, imposing cathedral is Muscovite Russia’s mother church.


Northern door, Copyright Alvesgaspar

Tsar Ivan III, the Great, the first Russian ruler to call himself Tsar, ordered its construction in the 15th century. Architect Aristotele Fioravanti built it from 1475–79. Under the reign of Ivan I (Ivan Kalita [Moneybag]), a cathedral dedicated to Theotokos (the Virgin Mary) had been built and dedicated, but this cathedral had fallen into disrepair by the end of the 15th century. A new cathedral was built from 1472–74, but as it neared completion, the placement of the drum of the main cupola caused it to collapse, and they had to start all over again. The new cathedral combined Russian traditions with Renaissance style.


Copyright user:shakko

In 1547, the coronation of Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan Grozniy, whose title truly translates as “fearsome,” “awe-inspiring,” and “dreadsome,” NOT “terrible”) took place in the cathedral. Starting in 1721, with Peter the Great, it became the location for all coronations. The installation of patriarchs and metropolitans of the Russian Orthodox Church also took place here, and this is where most of those religious leaders’ tombs are.


Copyright Elenak1211

Sadly, this beautiful cathedral has suffered much through the ages, with fires in 1518, 1547, 1682, and 1737; looting by Polish–Lithuanian forces during the Smutnoye Vremya (Time of Troubles) in 1612; and more looting and being used as a stable by the occupying French in 1812. In 1894–95, it underwent a thorough restoration. Its final religious service was held on Easter 1918, with special permission from Lenin. Following this, it became a museum. A story claims Stalin held a secret service here in the winter of 1941, when the Nazis were at the threshold of Moskvá, to pray for the country’s salvation.

It underwent repairs in 1949–50, 1960, and 1978. In 1990, it reopened for sporadic religious services, and since 1991, has been fully restored to the Russian Orthodox Church.


Holy Doors and part of the ikonostasis, Copyright user:shakko

During the coronation ceremony, the Tsar would enter the Holy Doors to take Communion with the priests for the first and only time in his life, taking the bread and wine separately instead of mixed together in a special spoon. In my alternative history, a new tradition is started when the Tsaritsa, Arkadiya, also goes inside the Holy Doors to receive Communion. Prior to this fantasy coronation in 1931, the Tsaritsa always remained outside to take Communion like everyone else. Not only does the Tsaritsa come inside, but the baby Tsesarevich, Yaroslav (Yarik), also comes inside for Communion. In Eastern Orthodoxy, infants take Communion. Hey, it’s the 20th century, and Russia has become a constitutional monarchy.

Chrysler Imperial Touring

Copyright Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden

The Chrysler Imperial Touring is probably my third-most desired antique car, after the sweet, sweet Duesenberg and Rochet-Schneider. This was Chrysler’s top of the line vehicle for much of its existence, starting with its début in 1926. It was initially manufactured until 1954, and then brought back from 1990–1993. In my alternative history, this is one of the cars in Tsar Aleksey II’s garage. He’s not allowed to drive, for fear the worst might happen, but there’s nothing the matter with being a passenger.