WeWriWa—Back to skating

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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. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s sister Irina and cousin Platosha told her how lucky she was to get a cute older boy helping her. Sonyechka said she wasn’t paying attention to what he looked like, and Irina said she won’t think like that much longer. The conversation then turned to Irina’s crush on Vadim, one of family friend Yuriy’s brothers.

Sonyechka has just asked if they can get back to skating, and promised she’d be more careful.

Irina puts her hat back on and hobbles out of the ladies’ room. “It’s no fun walking on knives on solid ground. Now I know how the Little Mermaid felt.”

When they get back on the rink, Adrian and Polya are still with the younger half of their group, now joined by Beatrisa. Irina feels a bit sorry for them, only there with one another instead of friends. Teenagers are supposed to have lots of friends, unless they’re outsiders in a hick town like Melville.

“Is Sonya okay?” Adrian asks. “I hope that blade didn’t cut into bone, muscle, or vein.”

“She’s as stubborn as everyone else in our family,” Irina reports. “Thank God that’s not her dominant hand.”

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WeWriWa—Principled pain tolerance

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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. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s 16-year-old sister Irina and 15-year-old cousin Platosha came to take her to the ladies’ room for first aid. Sonyechka’s first pain noises came when Platosha brushed black iodine all over her hand, prompting Platosha to comment on her high pain tolerance.

“I didn’t want to look like a baby in front of everyone. Showing weakness is bad, particularly when most people already think girls are inferior to boys. That’d give them even more reasons to treat us unfairly.”

Platosha puts numbing ointment over all the gashes, then finally wraps up Sonyechka’s hand. “You’re a very lucky girl. No cute older boy ever helped me up when I fell on a skating rink, at your age or any other time.”

“I wasn’t paying attention to what he looked like.”

Irina smiles. “You won’t think like that very much longer. Before you know it, you’ll have crushes on boys, and fantasies of marrying them.”

WeWriWa—A very high pain tolerance

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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. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s helpers introduced themselves as twins Poliksena and Adrian (though the reader knows they’re not true twins). Family friend Iliana asked if they were born in the U.S., and Poliksena said they were born in Prague, though their parents immigrated from Russia years earlier, and returned to the U.S. shortly after their birth. They didn’t learn English until kindergarten.

Sonyechka’s 16-year-old sister Irina has come to help her, along with their 15-year-old cousin Platosha.

Irina immediately takes Sonyechka’s left hand and skates off with her, Platosha supporting her from the other side.

“Thanks for helping,” Irina calls back.

“Some people on this rink are crazy,” Platosha says. “A lot of New Yorkers in general are crazy, but people often lose their senses and common decency in a crowd. I doubt someone would’ve done that in the days of skating on ponds.”

Platosha gets her purse from the bag check, then shows them the way into the ladies’ room. Irina rinses off Sonyechka’s bloody hand, washes it out with hot water and soap, and blots it dry with a hand towel from an attendant. Platosha then coats it with black iodine, which produces Sonyechka’s first pain noises.

“I would’ve been screaming since that mudak ran your hand over,” Platosha says. “You’ve got a really high pain tolerance.”

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In December, I was chosen as one of the ten winners whose stories will be in this year’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology, Masquerade: Oddly Suited. It releases 30 April, and the genre is young adult romance, with the theme of masquerade. My story is set in 1767 Charleston, featuring a character I created at 5-6 years old and thought I’d shelved forever in 1992. This is our cover:

Famous surnames (intentional) in my Russian historicals, conclusion

These days, I mostly find surnames from lists, and have moved past randomly choosing them from outdated encyclopedia and picking names in the news. It’s so much easier to do research now. However, I don’t regret giving some of my characters famous names, either intentionally or unintentionally.

It’s like an Easter egg; e.g., names like Chernomyrdina, Yeltsina, Zyuganov(a), and Yavlinskiy make it pretty obvious how immersed in Russian politics I was in the late Nineties.

I particularly don’t regret giving Lyuba’s stepfather’s family the name Lebedev(a), after Gen. Aleksandr Lebed (1950–2002), the candidate I supported in the 1996 presidential election. He had a very strong third-place finish, and was exactly the kind of leader Russia needs. The name means “swan,” which fits the title and symbolism of the first book.

Anna Akhmatova with her husband and son

Gumilyov, the false name Boris claims for himself, Lyuba, Ivan, and Ginny when deserting Bolshevik soldiers visit them in autumn 1917. Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilyov (1886–1921) was a prominent poet of Russia’s Silver Age, and the husband of poet Anna Akhmatova. He was arrested and murdered by the Cheka. His son, Lev (1912–92), was a historian, anthropologist, ethnologist, and Persian translator.

Rhodes, Katrin’s awesome butler. He’s so fun to write. I created him in 2001, and named him around 2012, after Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.

Scholl, a radical Greenwich Village doctor with an underground clinic, and a lot of courage and compassion. He was named for Sophie and Hans Scholl of the anti-Nazi White Rose group.

Tolstaya, a gymnasium teacher. Obviously after the famous Tolstoy family, titled counts who’ve produced scores of notables over the centuries.

Baryshnikova, wily orphanage girl Klarisa, whom Lena Yeltsina names her first daughter after in gratitude. As an adult, she continues using her skill at forging and double-crossing to help people with defecting. Mikhail Nikolayevich Baryshnikov (born 1948) is one of the greatest danseurs in history.

Nureyev, an interrogator in Lubyanka, named after venerable danseur Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev (1938–93).

Grinkova, the midwife who serves the fictional Russian–American farming town of Firebird Fields, Minnesota, very near Duluth. Mrs. Grinkova delivers Lyuba’s sixth, seventh, and eighth children, as well as all of Tatyana’s children. She and Ivan frequently trade sharp barbs because of their very different views on Lyuba continuing to have children with her history of high-risk pregnancies and deliveries.

In the fourth book, Mrs. Grinkova removes the husband stitches given to Nikolas and Kat’s daughter Raisa against her will. She and Raisa’s future second husband Filaret will come to her rescue near the end of the book, after husband Gustav’s most monstrous act.

Sergey Mikhaylovich Grinkov (1967–95) was the 1988 and 1994 OGM in pairs skating with his wife, Yekaterina Gordeyeva, with whom he also had four World golds, three European golds, one European silver, one World silver, one World Junior gold, and several other assorted golds and silvers. I’ll write a review of the book My Sergei sometime this year.

Aleksandr V. Popov during the 2008 Olympics, Copyright KenChong 一洲

Popov, one of creepy Basil Beriya’s fellow inmates at The Marx Center for the Crazies. He’s convinced he’s Karl Marx. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Popov (born 1971) is widely considered the greatest sprinter in swimming history. He has four OGMs, and two World Championship golds.

Nemova, another fellow inmate, who screams out the Nicene Creed nonstop. Basil is chained to the wall between these people. Aleksey Yuriyevich Nemov (born 1976) is one of the greatest gymnasts of history, with twelve Olympic medals (four of them gold), thirteen World Championship medals (five of them gold), four European Championship medals (three of them gold), and two European Team Championship golds.

House of Zubov coat of arms

Zubov, a former count, WWII Red Army hero, and young widower who moves into the Minneapolis apartment of the unhappily married Raisa and her twin Lyudmila in 1950. Raisa is instantly smitten with the handsome, polite, kind-natured Filaret, and begins dreaming of having an affair.

Filaret treats her twins Diana and Pamela much better than their father Gustav, and his respectful treatment of Raisa is night and day next to the increasingly cruel way Gustav treats her. He and Mrs. Grinkova will come to their rescue towards the end of the fourth book.

Though Zubov is a real noble surname, I also chose this name because of Dr. Nikolay Ivanovich Zubov, the subject of Chapter One of Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn’s Invisible Allies. Dr. Zubov and his wife repeatedly risked their lives to hide his writings, and suffered a lot for their association, but remained loyal allies who refused to betray their friend.

WeWriWa—Introductions

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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. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when her future husband Adrian pulled her up and asked if she feels dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous. Sonyechka said only her hand hurts, and her cousin Isidora went to get her older sister Irina and some gauze.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines. Klarisa and Iliana are the little sisters of Canadian Army medic Yuriy, whom some of you might remember from previous snippets.

“I’m Poliksena, but everyone calls me Polya,” the strange girl says, “and this is my twin brother Adrian.” She pronounces it with long As. “What’s your name?”

“Sofya, Sonya for short.” Sonyechka dares not tell these sophisticated teenagers her true nickname. She is called Sonya every so often, and knows she’ll have to graduate to the more mature nickname full-time in a few years, since no one takes a teenager or adult with a babyish nickname seriously.

“Were you born in this country?” Iliana asks.

Klarisa looks at her warningly but gently. “That’s not a polite question, Yana. Some things we never ask anyone, particularly not when we’ve just met.”