WeWriWa—Special birthday present


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 Igor and the guests at his 19th birthday party enjoyed a lavish feast.


After the table is cleared, Igor and his guests go into the living room to play board games.  Though most of the guests sit on the floor, Violetta has a seat on the davenport, with Luiza and Zoya.  There’s no way anyone could see up such a long skirt anyway, but perhaps this is yet another modesty rule Igor doesn’t know about.  For the sake of appearances, Igor doesn’t invite Violetta to be on any of his teams, and instead lets her play with the other co-eds.  Towards the end of the evening, when it comes time to open presents, Igor likewise saves Violetta’s present towards last.

He breaks into a big smile when he finds a gold-framed miniature of Vasiliy Kondratyevich Sazonov’s famous oil painting The First Meeting of Prince Igor with Olga.  It might be a painting she chose just because it features the original bearer of his name, but perhaps she’s also trying to send him some sort of secret romantic message.  Whyever she chose it, this painting will sure be going on his wall tonight, in a special place of honor right above his bed.


Prince Igor and Princess (later Regent) Olga were the first rulers of the Ryurikovich Dynasty after only Prince Ryurik himself, and Olga was the first of six women to rule Russia to date. Many people only count the four ruling empresses of the Romanov Dynasty, though I also count Regents Olga and Sofya. A Regent is still a ruler, even if she isn’t formally crowned.

WeWriWa—A birthday feast


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 a bit after last week’s, as Igor has just arrived at his birthday party. Now the host family’s servants are bringing out the food.

Mrs. Oswald is the cook, Mr. Rhodes is the butler (whom some of you might remember from previous posts), and Mrs. Samson is the maid. Draniki are potato pancakes, and Olivier salad is a mayo-based smorgasbord with cold meat like tongue or ham, potatoes, lettuce, caviar, olives, crayfish, capers, grouse, and aspic (gelled meat stock).


Mrs. Oswald, Mrs. Samson, and Mr. Rhodes bring out five types of cheese balls, deviled eggs, ten types of tea sandwiches, two large platters of lox, white chocolate chip and cranberry muffins, chocolate chip bread, an immense bowl of steaming apple cider with cinnamon sticks, seven large crystal bowls of mocktails, Olivier salad, draniki with sour cream and applesauce, pickled mushrooms, salmon cakes, hamburger pies, chicken potpies, watermelon salad, pistachio-encrusted tuna steaks, fruit salad with shredded coconut, cherry Jell-O molded into a butterfly shape, tomato cream soup, honey chocolate cake, cherry pies, and five large pans of no-bake fudge with chopped-up candybar pieces.

Just when it seems as though the feast is complete, Katrin’s servants lug out the goodies from the bakery—baklava, peanut butter balls, chocolate chip biscotti, M&M brownies, blueberry scones, cupcakes with strawberry icing, and, very best and last of all, the birthday cake.  It’s a five-layer triple chocolate cake with raspberry icing, strawberry jam filling, and crystallized flowers all along the outside.

During the meal, Igor has a seat between Ilya and Zoya.  Violetta is somewhat further away, between Luiza and Bogdana.  Though Igor wishes he could sit next to Violetta and talk to her, he dares not give his infatuation away in front of all these people, some of whom include his new NYU friends.  The other guys would doubtless deride him as laughably unmanly if they knew he’s so goofy over a woman he barely just met.  Tomorrow, at the Metropolitan, he’ll have plenty of time alone with her, and be able to better gauge her feelings.

WeWriWa—Beautiful feet


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 a few lines after last week’s. Igor has arrived at his birthday party and commented to Violetta about how she’s the first person to arrive, and asked if she’d like to get some egg cream and pop.

Violetta says they say soda in New York, gives him a wrapped present, and explains she came to see Mireena and Milena before the party. Without giving any details, she says they were so good to her when she had a long illness during the war.


Igor casts his gaze to Violetta’s feet, which are encased in sapphire blue peep-toe flats adorned with silk roses.  From what he can see of Violetta’s feet through the peepholes, she’s wearing ruby red stockings.  A delicate silver ankle watch studded with pink pearls is on her right foot, and an intricate gold anklet with teardrop-shaped emeralds is on her left foot.

Out of fear of making himself look like some kind of perverted foot fetishist, he dares not compliment her on how beautifully she styles her feet, nor to ask if she has any shoes that aren’t flats.  Igor is used to women wearing various types of heels to parties.  Even Anastasiya, with all her Victorian hemlines, still loves wearing all the most fashionable heels.  Igor has also heard the stories about how she wore tango shoes while fleeing the Bolsheviks.  Perhaps after he gets to know Violetta a little better, he can ask if she avoids heels for some religious reason.

WeWriWa—Hating her hemlines


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 a bit after last week’s, after Violetta has spoken with Katrin and her four younger daughters about her desire to keep her polio survivorship a secret. By 1948, none of Katrin’s daughters are children anymore, but they live at home due to being unmarried. Only oldest daughter Oliivia is married.

Though Violetta’s family has never been nearly as close to Katrin’s family as Igor’s family has been, Violetta became very good friends with twins Mireena and Milena when they regularly visited her during her recovery in the polio ward. Due to this close friendship, Katrin was moved to buy Violetta’s iron lung from the hospital so she could go home with her security blanket. Violetta’s parents couldn’t have afforded an iron lung, nor even more months of a hospital stay.

At the sound of footsteps and the elevator, Violetta repeats the importance of not telling anyone.


Igor, Ilya, and Milada come into the penthouse, and Violetta has a seat on the davenport with Mireena and Milena.  She gives a quick look down to make sure the outline of her caliper isn’t visible through her skirt.  If she didn’t have to wear this horrid thing all the time, she would’ve worn a sexy wiggle dress instead of such an antiquated long skirt.  Only extremely religious girls and women wear ankle-length hemlines these days, particularly to parties.  It’s a wonder she’s made any friends at all, when all the other co-eds go about in knee-length and mid-calf hemlines.  Even the dress code at her grandfather’s church, school, and camp doesn’t dictates ankle-length hemlines.

Igor comes over to Violetta and smiles at her. “You beat all the other guests.  Would you like to have some egg cream or pop while we’re waiting for the others?”

WeWriWa—The first guest to arrive

If you’re observing Tisha B’Av, may you have an easy and meaningful fast!


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 opening of Chapter 9, “Increasing Attraction,” of my fourth Russian historical. After last week’s snippet, Violetta agreed to come to Igor’s birthday party, and after he left, she and her baby sister Flora begged their mother to keep mum about how they had polio.

Violetta then phoned Igor’s great-aunt Valeriya and a number of other people who know her secret, begging them to keep mum too. When Igor arrived home, Valeriya was on the phone with Violetta. Valeriya urged him not to get his hopes up so much after only one meeting, and said he might find someone else he likes even more. She also said good relationships take time to develop.

The Kalvik penthouse has long been used as the site of many celebrations and get-togethers because it has a lot more space than anyone else’s house. Katrin Kalvik-Nikonova, the mistress of the household, is a longtime friend of Igor’s parents, and the one who paid for Violetta’s iron lung so she could finally go home for Orthodox Christmas 1943 and not lose her security blanket.


To make sure the Kalviks and their servants understand the importance of keeping mum, Violetta arrives at Igor’s birthday party at 5:45, ahead of all the other guests.  Though she’s sure all the other young women will have fashionable knee-length skirts and dresses, she’s changed from her ankle-length turquoise school dress into a teal blouse with elbow-length sleeves and a black ankle-length skirt.  The only time she wears modern knee-length hemlines is at home, without any company, where she feels safe revealing the caliper on her right leg.  At least she no longer wears a caliper that goes under her foot or around her ankle.  With the somewhat shorter caliper she can hide under long hemlines, she’s able to compensate for her unfashionably long hemlines with pretty, fancy shoes, anklets, and nailpolish.

“You’re awfully early,” Katrin observes, looking up from a Japanese textbook. “I suppose you wanted to see Mireena and Milena before anyone else arrived.”

“Well, yes, but I also wanted to make sure you remembered what I told you on the phone last Saturday.  This is really serious business.”


Katrin is teaching herself Japanese (her twelfth language) in preparation for a journalistic trip to see the aftereffects of the bombs. This trip will eventually land her in lots of hot water with McCarthyists, and will be one of the book’s other major storylines.

P.S.: Happy first birthday to my rook piercing! This was my eighth piercing, my seventh ear piercing, and my first real cartilage piercing (not counting my nostril). Sadly, I recently had to retire my beautiful navel piercing because of obvious rejection, but I’ve still got all nine of my ear piercings and my nostril, and I have plans for many more ear piercings. The rook is the barbell with blue gemstones going through the antihelix crus, the small, thick cartilage fold at the top of the ear.

Rook closeup