WeWriWa—Misplaced loyalty

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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, when Ivan Konev came home at 11:00 at night on his first anniversary with his wife Lyuba. It’s also the first anniversary of their children’s baptism, and Lyuba is heavily pregnant with a new baby they once thought they’d never have.

“Then why in the hell did you come home at eleven at night if it’s so special? Did you volunteer to stay late, or did you put on your usual act of being a mouse and not a man when that traitor Glazov asked or suggested you stay a lot later than usual? Maybe I should buy you a watch so you won’t have any excuse to lose track of time. I’ll pay extra to have the watch specially-made so the gears are on the other side.”

“He’d fire me if I walked out early. You know that. And I can’t easily find another job without the proper training, education, or experience.” He extends a bag. “I bought you some anniversary presents and presents for the kids for their first baptismal anniversary.”

Though Ivan was on track to go to university, he was expelled from his very left-wing gymnasium two months before graduation in 1917, on account of his monarchist views. Lyuba and many of their pro-Tsarist friends were also expelled. Ivan got a high school equivalency diploma shortly after arriving in America in 1921, but won’t attend university until 1948. He’s not qualified for much else but menial jobs.

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WeWriWa—Trouble in paradise

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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, I’m sharing the beginning of The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, the sequel to my first Russian historical, which released on Thursday. It opens six months after the end of the first book.

Lyuba and Ivan may now finally be married, and expecting their second blood child together (plus Lyuba’s firstborn child Tatyana, who has no idea Ivan isn’t her blood father), but the happy ending they fought so hard for is now set on a disastrous course all over again.

Any other man would come rushing home early from work to be with his wife on their first anniversary, particularly if he’d waited fifteen and a half years to marry the love of his life. And when his first wedding anniversary also happens to be the first anniversary of his children’s baptism and chrismation, he’d consider it doubly-important to race home from work. But Ivan Ivanovich Konev has never exactly been like most men, or even most people.

Full well knowing he’s probably about to get an earful, he opens the door to their tenement on the top floor of the building.

His heavily pregnant wife, Lyubov Ilyinichna Koneva, glares at him in the dark and crosses her arms. “Do you know today is September sixth? Has the significance of that date slipped your mind?”

“Of course I remember, golubka. How could I forget such a special day?”

Lyuba’s patronymic was Leontiyevna until near the end of the first book, when she changed it to Ilyinichna in honor of her stepfather Ilya. She wanted to change it after her mother’s remarriage, but decided to kill two birds with one stone and wait till she married Ivan and became a Koneva. She took care of both name changes at once.

I now have a page with links to my author pages and books. It also has information about planned future releases, the next one of which is my super-long third Russian historical. Since it’s excessively long even by my standards, I’ll probably end up releasing it as one book in two volumes.

WeWriWa—Alla’s accident

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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. 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.

St. Vladimir

St. Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kyiv (ca. 958–15 July 1015), was the sixth Ryurikovich ruler of Kyivan Rus. He was the youngest son of Prince Svyatoslav and his servant-turned-wife Malusha.

In 969, Svyatoslav moved his capital to Pereyaslavets (modern-day Nufǎru, Romania). To his oldest son, Yaropolk, he gave Velikiy Novgorod (Great Novgorod), and to Vladimir he gave Kyiv.

Svyatoslav was slain by Pechenegs in 972, and in 976, a fratricidal war erupted between Yaropolk and his younger brother Oleg, Prince of the Drevlyans (an East Slavic tribe). After Yaropolk killed Oleg in battle, Vladimir fled to their relative Haakon Sigurdsson, Norway’s ruler.

Haakon sent many warriors to fight against Yaropolk. When Vladimir returned from Norway the next year, he marched against Yaropolk.

On his way to Kyiv, Vladimir sent ambassadors to Prince Rogvolod of Polatsk (an ancient East Slavic city) to sue for the hand of his daughter, Princess Rogneda (962–1002), who was engaged to Yaropolk.

When Rogneda refused, Vladimir attacked Polatsk, raped Rogneda in front of her parents, and murdered her parents and two of her brothers.

Vladimir secured both Polatsk and Smolensk, and took Kyiv in 978. Upon his conquest of the city, he invited Yaropolk to negotiations at which he was murdered.

Vladimir was proclaimed Grand Prince of all Kyivan Rus.

Vladimir expanded Kyivan Rus far beyond its former borders. He gained Red Ruthenia (Chervona Rus), and the territories of the Yatvingians, Radimiches, and Volga Bulgars.

He had 800 concubines, and at least nine daughters and twelve sons from his seven legitimate wives.

Though Vladimir’s grandma Olga had converted to Christianity and begun Christianizing Kyivan Rus, Vladimir was an unrepentant pagan. He erected many statues and shrines to pagan deities, elevated thunder god Perun to supreme deity, instituted human sacrifices, destroyed many churches, and murdered many clergy.

When a Christian Varangian named Fyodor refused to give his son Ioann for sacrifice, a mob descended upon his house. Fyodor and Ioann, both seasoned soldiers, met the mob with weapons in hand.

The mob, realizing they’d be overpowered in a fair fight, smashed up the entire property, rushed at Fyodor and Ioann, and murdered them. They became Russia’s first recognized Christian martyrs.

Vladimir thought long and hard about this. In 987, he sent envoys to study the major religions and report back on their findings. The envoys also returned with representatives of these faiths.

Vladimir rejected Islam because he couldn’t give up pork or drinking, and didn’t want to be circumcised. He rejected Judaism because he felt the destruction of Jerusalem was “evidence” we’d been “abandoned” by God.

Vladimir found no beauty in Catholicism, but was very impressed by the beauty of Orthodox Christianity.

Vladimir agreed to become Orthodox in exchange for the hand of Anna Porphyrogenita, sister of Emperor Basil II of Byzantium. (Porphyrogenita, “born in the purple,” was an honorific for someone born to a Byzantine emperor after he’d taken the throne.)

Kyivan Rus and Byzantium were enemies, but after the wedding, Vladimir agreed to send 6,000 troops to protect Byzantium from a rebels’ siege. The revolt was put down.

Upon his return to Kyiv, Vladimir compelled his subjects into a mass baptism in the Dnepr River, and burnt all the pagan statues he’d erected.

After the mass conversion, Vladimir formed a great council from his boyars, gave his subject principalities to his twelve legitimate sons, founded the city of Belgorod (Bilhorod Kyivskyy), and embarked on a short-lived campaign against the White Croats.

Though his conversion was politically motivated, Vladimir nevertheless became very charitable towards the less fortunate. He gave them food and drink, and journeyed to those who couldn’t reach him.

He married one final time, to Otto the Great’s daughter (possibly Rechlinda Otona).

In 1014, he began gathering troops against his son Yaroslav the Wise. They’d long had a strained relationship, and when Yaroslav refused to pay tribute to his brother Boris, heir apparent, it was the last straw.

Vladimir’s illness and death prevented a war. His dismembered body parts were distributed to his many sacred foundations and venerated as relics.

Several cities, schools, and churches in Russia and Ukraine are named for Vladimir. He also appears in many folk legends and ballads. His feast day is 15 July.

An ikon of St. Vladimir is one of the things my character Ivan Konev throws into a valise before he escapes into his root cellar to hide from vigilante Bolsheviks who’ve broken into his house in April 1917.

That ikon becomes very dear to Ivan and his future wife Lyuba. They believe Vladimir protected them during the Civil War. When their oldest son Fedya goes to fight in WWII, they lend him the ikon.

Patriarch’s Pond

Copyright A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace)

Patriarch’s Pond (Patriarshiye Prudy, whose name truly translates to Patriarch’s Ponds), colloquially known as Patriki, is a wealthy downtown area of Moskva’s Presnenskiy (Presnya) District. It takes its name from the beautiful pond. There used to be three ponds (as evidenced by the name), but now there’s only one.

The current pond is 107,000 square feet (9,900 square meters), and six and a half feet (two meters) deep.

Copyright Табуретка (Taburyetka)

Copyright A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace)

The pond in turn takes its name from Patriarch Germogen (served 1606–12, at the end of the Smutnoye Vremya, Time of Troubles). Before this area became his residence, it was the Goat Marsh. Unsurprisingly, goats were bred nearby. Their wool went to the Imperial Court.

In 1683, Patriarch Yakim ordered the swamps replaced with three fish ponds. In the pond formed from the Presnya River, expensive fish for the Patriarch’s table were bred, while cheap fish were in the ponds from the Goat Marsh.

The ponds were abandoned during the Synodal period of 1700–1917, during which the election of a new Patriarch was forbidden.

Copyright Ksu25

The ponds took on their current form and were refurbished during 1830–31, during the massive rebuilding efforts necessitated by the devastating Fire of 1812. The gutted wooden buildings around the pond were replaced by stone.

Every winter since 1900, the Russian Gymnastic Society turns the frozen pond into a skating rink. At night, 16 floodlights illuminate it and project images of snowflakes and flowers onto the ice.

Copyright karel291

The pond was hurt again by the 1897 flood, and city officials considered abandoning it. Though it cost a lot of money to clean, the pond was saved and filled with fresh water.

In the early 20th century, cheap real estate sprung up around the pond, occupied by university students. During the failed 1905 revolution, it was occupied by left-wing student militia, and turned into a warzone.

Moskva’s first children’s hospital, Filatov, was also initially located here.

Copyright Elisa.rolle

Under Soviet rule, the beautiful apartments occupied by the wealthy were turned into communal apartments. The pond was also renamed Pioneer Ponds, though the new name never caught on. In 1992, the real name was officially restored.

Landmarks include the Gavriil Tarasov mansion; the House with Lions (the home of Red Army Marshals); a monument to fabulist Ivan Andreyevich Krylov (surrounded by twelve of his characters); and a stone pavilion.

House of Lions, Copyright NVO

Patriarch’s Pond famously features in the opening chapter of Mikhail Afanasiyevich Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Bulgakov and his wife lived there in the 1930s, and today there’s a monument to him.

My characters Lyuba Zhukova and Ivan Konev skip gymnasium (high school) and spend the day by Patriarch’s Pond in April 1917, during their clandestine, month-long romance which forms the first “on” period of their on-again, off-again relationship.

Ivan dreamily tells her about the great life they’re going to have in America, and he shows off his rudimentary English. They also buy sweets from a vendor. In the unnaturally warm weather, they see a swan and her cignets, and compare themselves to swans mating for life.

The cover of my first Russian historical shows them by the banks of the pond. Initially, I wanted it to specifically show Ivan writing the English alphabet in the dirt.