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

WeWriWa—Presents from the Lindmaas

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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. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This week will be my last Christmas-themed excerpt, in honor of the recent Orthodox Christmas. It comes from Chapter 90, “Cruel Christmas,” from A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book about my Russian-born characters. It’s set during January 1951.

Milena Kalvik, age 26, is the nanny of Tarmo and Meri Lindmaa. Their father Vahur, a widower about to turn 33, lost his wife in the final bombing of Tallinn, Estonia in 1944. Meri is particularly attached to Milena, never having known her birth mother. She was born in a posthumous C-section two months prematurely, and has a very unusual scar on her face from the rushed surgery done in the dark with only a knife.

Milena has had feelings for Vahur almost since they met, and adores his children, but doesn’t think he could ever reciprocate.

The Lindmaas are Taaraists, followers of Estonia’s original religion Taarausk (Taaraism), which is built around Nature worship. Taara is their supreme god.

Milena fetches the gifts she bought for Vahur, Meri, and Tarmo. Though they don’t celebrate Christmas, it felt wrong to not give them anything in return. For Tarmo and Meri, she bought James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks and Anne Parrish’s The Story of Appleby Capple, respectively. Vahur’s present is a painted necktie with Bengal tigers.

“I hope you like our gifts,” Meri says. “Tarmo and I spent a lot of time making them. It was easier to do when you don’t live with us anymore.”

Milena unwraps a set of four coasters from Tarmo, painted with geometric patterns in a rainbow of colors, and a green, heart-shaped ceramic candy dish from Meri. Her heart skips a beat when she discovers a rough-cut pearl necklace from Vahur.

“You didn’t have to get me something so personal,” Milena protests.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“I’m only your children’s nanny. The other jewelry you’ve gotten me is unprecedented enough.”

“Why shouldn’t I honor such a special person with pearls?” Vahur smiles at her. “I’ve never seen you wearing pearls, and thought you deserved your own, in a unique style. So many other ladies wear basic, boring white pearls, but how many wear rough-cut pearls? It’s special, just like you.” Vahur takes it out of the box and fastens it around Milena’s neck. “Every lady deserves pearls from a man, and since no one else did it, I took it upon myself.”

“So you feel sorry for me because I’m an old maid?”

“Perish the thought. Taara’s keeping you single so long because your husband’s very special and worth waiting for. It takes more time to match some people. Not everyone is lucky enough to find a soulmate at all of sixteen or twenty. You’ll appreciate him more when he reveals himself.”

Milena’s heart flutters at that choice of phrase. She can’t let herself believe Vahur is speaking about himself, but the possibility exists. Her heart beats even faster when Vahur helps her on with her winter wraps and takes her arm.

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

WeWriWa—Marek’s gifts to Tamara

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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. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

Since it’s December, I’ve switched to Christmas-themed excerpts (even though my own winter holiday is Chanukah). This week, the snippet comes from Chapter 90, “Cruel Christmas,” from A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book about my Russian-born characters. It’s set during January 1951.

Lyuba and Ivan’s youngest child, nine-year-old Tamara, is still using crutches and calipers over a year after she had a stroke from being brutally attacked by her second grade teacher and all but one of her classmates. She’s very disappointed and upset she can’t practice walking normally outside the house, no matter how much her family tries to reassure her this won’t last forever.

Tamara’s gift is from eleven-year-old Marek Kalvik, the surprise late-life sixth child of dear family friend Katrin Kalvik-Nikonova. When he recently testified at his mother’s kangaroo court trial for alleged un-American activities, the judge taunted him by saying no one will want to marry him. In case that happens, he asks Tamara if she’ll promise to marry him when they’re grownups, but only if she really wants to.

Tamara limps back to the davenport and pulls off the wrapping paper. She lifts the flaps of the box within and finds a stuffed turtle, an onyx and silver bracelet, an obsidian bead necklace, and a letter. Ivan suspiciously eyes the jewelry as Tamara holds the turtle in her lap and reads Marek’s letter.

December 27, 1950,

Dear Toma,

I hope you get this by Orthodox Christmas. My brothers-in-law, Nikita, and Viivi helped me with selecting your presents. Taavi and Sulev told me turtles represent long life, good health, persistence, determination, emotional strength, and being grounded despite chaos. I asked them about more jewelry to help you with healing, and they said blue stones like lapis lazuli help with relaxation and calming, and black stones like obsidian and onyx help with protection. When we’re older, I’ll buy you black pearls. They protect people from negative energy and have lots of healing energy too, but pearls are grownup jewelry, and lots of money.

The ten lines end here (by the way I counted). A few extras follow.

I hope you don’t think you already have too many stuffed animals and too much jewelry. Each one is different and special, but you might not see it that way when people keep giving them to you.

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

WeWriWa—Diana and Pamela’s first Christmas

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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. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

Since it’s December, I’ve switched to Christmas-themed excerpts (even though my own winter holiday is Chanukah). This week, the snippet comes from Chapter 90, “Cruel Christmas,” from A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book about my Russian-born characters. It’s set during January 1951.

Diana (Dee-AHN-ah) and Pamela (Pah-MEL-ah) Zotova, newly turned eight months old, are staying with Lyuba and Ivan’s family in St. Paul while their mother Raisa and aunt Lyudmila, Raisa’s twin sister, are hospitalized. Raisa and Lyudmila realized too late they chose terrible husbands just to escape small town life and move to Minneapolis. They recently found much better future second husbands, but they first have to figure a way out of their unhappy current marriages.

Diana and Pamela smile big smiles at Irina as she unwraps the presents Raisa and Lyudmila got them, which Filaret delivered on Saturday. From their mother, they have a brightly-colored ring-stacking toy and stacking cups. Their aunt got them toy drums and rattles with cat heads at either end.  Diana’s rattle depicts Siamese cats, and Pamela’s has red tabbies. Out of fear of Gustav’s wrath, Filaret set up a savings account for them in lieu of physical presents.

“They’re so cute,” Tamara says. “Can we keep them? I want little sisters. Everyone else in our family has younger siblings.”

“They’re Raya’s babies, not ours,” Lyuba says gently.

The ten lines end here. A few more to complete the scene follow.

“She’ll be very sad if we don’t give them back.”

“They won’t be happy to go home,” Sonyechka says. “Gustav is a very bad person. He doesn’t treat Raya or his babies very nicely.”

“That’s not our affair to meddle in,” Ivan says. “If Raya’s the good, sweet person we remember her as, she’ll come to her senses eventually and leave that mudak. If I’ve read the situation with the count correctly, Raya has her second husband waiting in the wings.”

“Speaking of future husbands, why doesn’t Toma open her gift from Marek?” Sonyechka holds up a jade green package.

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

WeWriWa—Bogdana’s Christmas surprise

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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. For my Orthodox Christmas-themed snippet this year, I’m sharing something 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 mostly lives in the guesthouse, but she’s been prevailed upon to join her aunt’s family in the main estate for Christmas. Her discussion with her aunt about wearing old-fashioned skating boots to Prospect Park was interrupted by the doorbell.

This has been slightly altered to fit ten lines.

Bogdana goes back to the Christmas tree in the sitting room when Fyodora goes to answer the door. She has no intention of trading her ankle-length grey wool dress for a skating outfit she can comfortably move in, and doesn’t care if she’s the most unfashionable person on the rink. Those people ought to be more concerned with their own affairs instead of gossiping about someone else’s.

“Bogusya, Dyed Moroz has a surprise present for you!” Fyodora calls.

Bogdana clenches her fists. “Don’t tell me you paid some old man to dress up like Dyed Moroz and come to deliver a gift. I’m too old for that silliness, and even if I still believed in Dyed Moroz, nothing could change my melancholic mood. The die was cast that disgusting night, and nothing can ever change it.”

“Please, come take a look at your present before you decide it’s worthless; something tells me you’ll really, really like it.”

Bogdana returns to the front entryway, and immediately looks away when she sees Achilles standing there, holding a large bouquet of red roses in his right hand and a small gift bag in his left hand.

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

WeWriWa—Tamara’s Christmas surprise

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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 year’s Orthodox Christmas-themed snippet comes from the last chapter of Part I of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. Much of this chapter is set over Russian Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Lyuba, Ivan, and their three youngest daughters recently left the fictional town of Melville, Minnesota, after a brutal attack on their youngest child Tamara by her second grade teacher and classmates. The school nurse refused to help, and Tamara had a stroke. Now she’s finally home with her family, in their new house in St. Paul.

Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, is the granddaughter of Dyed Moroz, the Russian Santa. She helps him distribute presents, and is the only female assistant of any Santa character. While the U.S. version of Santa has Mrs. Claus, she’s not depicted as helping him in that way.

“Toma, come take a look at who came to see you,” Ivan calls.

Tamara throws her hand over her face when she sees Dyed Moroz in a long blue coat with white fur trim and embroidered silver swirls, a round fur cap, and leather boots.  He carries a staff in his right hand, a velvet blue bag in his left.  When Tamara uncovers her face and looks again, she sees Snegurochka, dressed in a matching dress, with long blonde braids and white boots.  Snegurochka is wheeling in a turquoise Huffy Convertible bicycle, with new-fangled training wheels and foot steps.

S Rozhdestvom, Tamara,” Dyed Moroz says as he walks up to her. “The American Santa Claus at the children’s hospital told me how much you wanted me to visit you and give you a present.  He also told me the presents you wanted.  After the horrible thing that happened to you, you more than deserve a home visit.”

“Am I still asleep?” Tamara asks.