WeWriWa—Acrimonious anniversary


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, whom he waited fifteen and a half years to marry since falling in love with her at age nine. He’s tried to placate her by showing her a bag of anniversary presents, and baptismal anniversary gifts for their kids.

“Both children are asleep. You’re not going to wake them so late just to give them presents. Did you know I made a special meal, assuming you’d actually be home on time on our anniversary? Goat meat, stuffed peppers, tomato soup with croutons, pelmeni stuffed with mushrooms and cheese, chocolate cake with cherry frosting and real cherries, and coffeecake with apricot filling and chocolate drizzle. The leftovers are in the refrigerator. Say what you want about your father’s job, but it’s thanks to him we were able to afford a real refrigerator and get rid of that stupid outdated icebox. We’ve got a real washing machine and modern kitchen and cooking implements thanks to him too. Why don’t you work for your father so you can finally bring in real money?”

Ivan’s father has a secret liquor store, and wants Ivan to help him with bootlegging his supply of alcohol. Lyuba worked for him briefly in the past, but Ivan put a stop to it after an incident with Russian–American mobsters.

Mr. Konev is also a former alcoholic who beat Ivan black and blue every day for years, till he got too big to push around, and raped Lyuba about ten times, always in conjunction with her own abusive father. Over the course of this book, both spouses come to regret forgiving him for committing such vile sins against them.


WeWriWa—Misplaced loyalty


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.

WeWriWa—Trouble in paradise


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.

Happy release day to The Twelfth Time!

With gratitude to Hashem, I announce the long-overdue release of my second Russian historical, The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks. It’s set from 6 September 1924–11 December 1930, in New York City; Sea Cliff, Long Island; the USSR (specifically, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus); and rural Minnesota (a fictional Russian–American farming town called Firebird Fields, near Duluth).

I developed the idea for a sequel to my first Russian historical in 1995, and carried it around in my head, memorized backwards and forwards, for half of my life. I originally began it in August 2001, but only wrote a few chapters, and wasn’t able to locate them later.

I’m glad I didn’t actually write this story till I was 31. At all of 21, I could never have written it the way it needed to be. While my chapter-by-chapter notes from 2001 were very much used in crafting the finished product, I diverged from them in a number of places, and added many new storylines. Additionally, I only knew Lyuba as Amy (her original, decidedly UN-Russian name).

Amy was a rather passive puppet who was acted upon instead of acting, and had no real motivations or struggles beyond clichés and generalities. Lyuba fights to overcome her demons, and break free of the abnormal thought patterns resulting from her dysfunctional childhood. Making her a knowing, deliberate adulteress would make as much sense as Scarlett still chasing Ashley after finally realising Rhett is the only man for her. Lyuba underwent too much emotional growth to revert all of a sudden.

Hence, Boris takes advantage of her when she’s not in control of all her senses. It’s the same black moment I planned at fifteen, only executed much differently.

Lyuba and Ivan’s happy marriage begins creeping towards disaster when Ivan comes home late on their first anniversary. While Lyuba struggles to raise their children and keep house in their Lower East Side tenement, largely existing off the large amount of savings they brought from Russia, Ivan is content to be the lapdog of Mr. Glazov, the Russian Uncle Tom who runs the iron factory. His frequent late nights and sometimes staying several days in a row at work quickly take their toll on Lyuba, coupled with how Ivan often goes to visit his parents and pointless baby sister.

The Konevs’ marital troubles don’t escape the notice of their former best friend Boris, who’s beside himself with joy at the thought of finally getting Lyuba back and regaining his paternal rights over Tatyana. Boris also is determined to gain full legal custody of the children Lyuba has had with Ivan, and makes no secret of any of his feelings.

Ivan’s parents also quickly discover there’s trouble in paradise. At first, only his father believes Lyuba will cuckold him with Boris, but as time goes by, Ivan’s mother, once such a kind and loving person, turns against Lyuba as well. The senior Konevs’ relationship with Ivan, Lyuba, and their children eventually completely unravels, and Ivan becomes estranged from both his parents this time, not just his formerly abusive father.

Things go from bad to worse when Ivan quits his exploitative job at the iron factory and refuses to look for new work immediately, believing his new role as a househusband is his way of making up for all that time he wasn’t home, and atoning for the sin of being more devoted to his boss than his family. When Lyuba discovers they barely have any money left in the bank, she begins taking in washing, mending, and sewing, while Ivan starts repairing small machinery from home. To keep the wolf from the door, Lyuba secretly rekindles her friendship with the shunned Alya and Anya in exchange for regular monetary gifts.

A window of hope opens when their friends purchase land and houses in Minnesota. Lyuba expects her family will soon join them, but Ivan has nowhere near enough money to make their longtime dream of becoming farmers a reality. Though her stepfather has given Ivan a sales job at his rug-making factory, Ivan spends more time making friends than sales.

Finally, when Lyuba hits rock bottom, Ivan is woken up to how seriously their marriage is in trouble, and agrees to a temporary separation. He’ll go to Minnesota and live with Aleksey and Eliisabet’s family, while Lyuba will remain in New York and gradually resettle their children.

Lyuba is enjoying her time as an independent, working woman, and absence is making her heart grow fonder. But then, shortly before she’s due to join Ivan in Minnesota, something unexpected happens, and Boris, who has long been waiting for his former best friends’ marriage to crumble, takes advantage of the situation. By the time Lyuba recovers her senses, she knows it’s going to be difficult for Ivan to forgive her for her twelfth betrayal.

WeWriWa—Eliisabet’s advice


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 immediately follows last week’s, when 17-year-old Lyuba Zhukova privately lamented her ball escort to her friend Eliisabet.

Lyuba’s two best friends, Boris Malenkov and Ivan Konev, have taken turns escorting her to balls since they were gymnasium students, but since Boris acted up in April and was punished with the new-fangled detention, Ivan took his place for their final gymnasium ball before they were expelled. Not only does this mean Boris now gets to escort her to a ball, but Lyuba also promised Boris would have two turns in a row next time.

Lyuba’s friend Eliisabet Kutuzova, always very understanding and full of practical advice, tries to convince her to follow her heart.

“It’s long past time you were honest with both of them. If you really prefer Ivan, it’s dishonest to have them switch turns and pretend you only like both of them as friends. I can see it all over your face. That’s the man you love. If you lead Malenkov on, things might get more complicated than you bargained for. It’s easier to level with someone before things go too far than it is to jilt someone who thinks he’s your beau.”

“Just yesterday we were about to run away to get married and leave for America, but that creep Basil sprung a surprise visit on us and ruined everything. Vanya may have only ever kissed me, but he’s as incredible as a man who’s had a thousand prior girlfriends. I wish I were in his arms right now, doing all the things we used to do during our secret romance in the spring.”

You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan (1917-24):

Seventeen-year-old Lyuba Zhukova is left behind in Russia when her mother and aunt immigrate to America, forcing her to go into hiding from the Bolsheviks and sometimes flee at a moment’s notice.  By the time the Civil War has turned in favor of the Reds, Lyuba has also become an unwed mother.  But she still has her best friend and soulmate Ivan Konev, a band of friends, and a cousin, and together they’re determined to survive the Bolsheviks and escape to America.

As Lyuba runs for her life during the terror and uncertainty of the Civil War, she’s committed to protecting her daughter and staying together with Ivan, her on-again, off-again boyfriend in addition to her best friend and the man who’s raised her child as his own since the night she was born.  The race to get out of Russia, into Estonia, and over to America intensifies after Ivan commits a murder to protect her and becomes a wanted criminal.

Once in America, Lyuba discovers the streets aren’t lined with gold and that she’s just another Lower East Side tenement-dweller.  Ivan brings in dirt wages from an iron factory, forcing them to largely live off the savings they brought from Russia and to indefinitely defer their dream of having their own farm in the Midwest.  And though the Red Terror is just a nightmarish memory, Lyuba is still scarred in ways that have long prevented her and Ivan from becoming husband and wife and living happily ever after.  Can she ever heal from her traumatic past and have the life she always dreamt of with the man she loves before Ivan gets tired of waiting?