Sergei Kourdakov, a former KGB agent and Soviet naval intelligence officer, defected from the USSR at the age of twenty. A year later we met at my Federal Government office in Washington DC. We were watched and followed. “Even you could be spy,” Sergei whispered. My book, A Rose for Sergei, is the true story of our time together.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Gifts We Give

One of my favorite holiday stories is a short story by O. Henry—The Gift of the Magi.  Not wanting to give away the story line . . . it’s about a young married couple who want to give each other the perfect gift.  When I was a child I read this heartwarming story.  I had to hold back the tears at the time so the words on the pages wouldn’t blur.

At this time of year everyone is running around trying to find great gifts for the people we care about.  The value of a gift often has nothing to do with how it affects us.  Some of the most meaningful gifts have little monetary value.  The simplicity of Sergei’s rose was spellbinding.

Apparently a lot of people really liked the picture of Sergei Kourdakov lifting weights that I posted on last week’s blog.  I jokingly told friends that if I changed my book cover to that shirtless photo of Sergei more people would check it out.  How boring is a red rose on a book cover compared to him?  The rose on the cover of my book, however, is actually very symbolic for Sergei and me.  When you read A Rose for Sergei you will understand its importance.  The gifts we give from the heart are the ones that last a life time.

Wherever you are this holiday season, I wish you peace and a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Persecutor and A Rose for Sergei

The whole time I knew Sergei Kourdakov I only saw kindness, strength, and compassion.  I have to admit, however, there was a lot I never knew about his former life in the Soviet Union.  He had only told me a shortened version of his life, leaving out many details for a reason.  He did not want to alarm me.

Sergei and I met in the fall of 1972 when we were both twenty-one, our worlds complete opposites.  He was raised in orphanages and quickly learned that only the strongest would survive.  This photograph of Sergei Kourdakov was taken shortly before he defected.  He made sure to stay in shape for his unbelievable swim to freedom.  I, on the other hand, was raised in a large loving family.  In comparison to him, I was petite in stature, and always felt safe and protected in my family and in my country.

In my book, A Rose for Sergei, I write about the time I had one brief moment of fear when Sergei and I were alone in my apartment.  It devastated Sergei to think he frightened me.  He assured me he would never hurt me.  I really didn’t want to write this particular chapter in my book because it is deeply personal and private.  It was a crucial turning point for Sergei . . . for both of us.  So I shared this part of our story in my book.

Excerpt from Sergei’s book:

July 1970
Down through the streets of Moscow I wandered, lonely, disillusioned, distraught.  I was in a state of total confusion, but I decided one thing.  I would leave Russia and get as far away as I could.  I can’t say why I wanted to leave Russia.  I only know that I was deeply disillusioned and desperately unhappy, that something was terribly wrong.

-Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor (Chapter 18, pg. 221)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Best Questions

Some people seem to have the ability to ask the right questions.  Not questions that require a simple “yes” or “no” response, but thought-provoking questions.  Try as I might, I don’t believe I fall into that category.  For some people it comes naturally to question as they delve deeper into the conversation.  I usually expect that sort of in-depth discussion to come from an older, mature person.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when an acquaintance in her mid-twenties asked me about A Rose for Sergei.

Lindsay knew I had finished writing my book about Sergei Kourdakov.  However, she also told me she didn’t have a lot of time to read right now.  I told her that was perfectly all right.  After all, it is a busy time of year.  But the good news is, I told her, my book is a quick, easy read when you have more time.  I would say it will take anywhere from 3-4 hours.  And then her questions started.

“Was Sergei The One?” Lindsay asked.

“The one . . . what?  Sorry.  Yes, he was the Russian defector,” I replied.

“No.  I mean, was he Your One.”

“No,” I quietly replied as I smiled back at her.  “My husband was always meant to be My One.”

“Ohhh, I like that answer,” Lindsay said.  “So, you were just meant to meet Sergei in order to write about him then?”

I paused at that point in our conversation.  What an intuitive and thought-provoking question.  I thought about my answer.  “Hmmm . . . yes.  I think you might be right about that.  Maybe that’s the reason Sergei and I met . . . so I could write about him.”

“And no one really knew about you and Sergei.  You kept this to yourself all these years.  And it’s all true.  Every bit of it?”  Lindsay questioned.

“Yes it’s all true,” I said.

“Is the end bittersweet?”

“The end of the book?”

“No, finishing your book.  Is that bittersweet?  You kept it inside all these years and now you’re done.  Is that bittersweet for you?  Now you feel you can move on to something else.”

“Wow, you ask the best questions,” I said.  “You would make a great interviewer!”

“Why, thank you,” Lindsay beamed.

“In answer to your question, yes and no.  Yes, it is bittersweet for me to be done writing the book.  But also . . . no, I don’t feel like it’s the end.  I really feel it’s the beginning—for people to read the book and know more about Sergei.  It’s just the beginning.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Rose for Sergei — Now Available in Paperback!

The paperback version of A Rose for Sergei is now available on the Amazon website!  Just in time for Cyber Monday—one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.

First thoughts:  I think I’m at a loss for words, but only temporarily.  You have to understand that I am not a writer and had never planned to write a book.  And blogging?  All foreign to me.

Second thoughts:  I hope people will find this book, read it, and share it with others.  I have always known that this part of Sergei Kourdakov’s life needed to be told.  I just never knew that I would be the one to do it.


    It surprised me the first day I sat down at the computer and felt Sergei’s story come to life.  I watched the words fly effortlessly onto the pages.  I need to tell this story, I kept telling myself, and so I continued writing.  Those who have followed my blog from its inception (first post - February 25, 2013) know that I kept this story to myself for over forty years.

    I always enjoy the email I receive from readers through my blog.  In response to an enthusiastic reader in Canada, I even added a clarifying short addendum at the end of the book.

    Lastly, if you order A Rose for Sergei now, it will arrive in time for the Christmas holidays.

Monday, November 24, 2014

An Unbiased Opinion

The final proof for A Rose for Sergei arrived last week.  I am thisclose to completion.  I had made a change to the book cover, adjusting the size of the rose to be more prominent, which necessitated making the font smaller on the lower section.  I had a cover already for the eBook but the paperback cover had to be sized differently.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the changes though.  After all this time I wanted it to be right.

When I designed the cover I wanted it to be in direct contrast to Sergei’s book, The Persecutor.  I kept it simple, using the same colors—red, black and white.  But in reverse.  I even ended up using the photo I took with my cell phone.  For some reason it captured the features I wanted better than my pricier digital camera.

Now I needed an unbiased opinion about which cover to choose and the perfect opportunity presented itself in a most unique manner.  I actually asked the furnace serviceman, who had just finished cleaning our house heating system, for his thoughts on the two different covers.  It turned out his wife was a photographer so I was confident he had experience in selecting photos.  I was relieved when he chose the book cover I was leaning towards.

The service technician was not familiar with Sergei Kourdakov’s story and I ended up giving him a quick synopsis.  I was surprised by his thoughtful comments and questions.  Yes, I agreed with him, Sergei was very smart.  Something I think many people were not aware of.  Yet, this man picked up on that in seconds.  He asked the age I recommended for children to read the book.  I told him the content was serious, “At least age thirteen,” I suggested.  We talked a little more about Sergei and then the final question, “Was Sergei happy?”  A good question and an important one.  “Yes . . . Sergei was happy in this country.”  It was obvious to anyone who had the chance to meet Sergei that he was excited to be here.

I ended up giving the technician a proof of the paperback book.

The paperback version of
  A Rose for Sergei will be available December 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Seriously Need to . . .

I am waiting for the final proof of the paperback version of A Rose for Sergei to be printed.  If all goes well, the paperback copy should be available on Amazon after Thanksgiving, just in time for the winter holidays.  I am so anxious for this final stage of publication . . . but not for me.  I’m anxious for others to be able to read and know another side of Sergei Kourdakov.  And at the same time, I hate waiting these last few weeks.  I’m terrible at waiting.

The best way to stave off impatience is to keep busy, and I seriously need to clean out my closets.  My simple plan is to clean out a few closets in my house while I wait.  Simple?  Maybe, but not for this procrastinator.  I think I might be like a lot of people who keep favorite items of clothing around that should have been discarded a long time ago.  It’s hard to say goodbye to memories.

And so I began the tedious process of sorting out items in a very crammed closet.  As I worked, I easily filled one bag with gently used clothes to give away.  I actually even managed to throw out a few things.  All was going great until I reached for an old coat and discovered a black silk scarf hidden underneath it.  And then everything came to an abrupt stop.  How can one plain scarf bring up so many memories?

I wrote about this very scarf in my book.  What I didn’t realize was that I still had it in my possession.  This was the scarf I wore to the visitation service for Sergei in Washington DC.  I had to go out and specifically buy it because I didn’t usually wear black.  I gently wrapped the silky scarf around my neck and shoulders.  In that moment, time stood still as the memories flooded back.  I recalled the very day I bought the scarf.  The older saleswoman surprised me when she told me I should not wear black.  Somehow, I felt she was telling me not to grieve.  I folded the scarf up and decided to keep it.

Forty-one years is a long time to keep a scarf.  But some parts of our lives are worth holding on to.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The People Who Come Into Our Lives

The eBook version of A Rose for Sergei is still on sale for $1.99 (half-price) today!  This book promotion sale ends Tuesday, November 11 at midnight (PST).

I always appreciate when readers take the time to leave a book review.  Reviews help potential readers find a book they are interested in reading.  The following reviews are from the Amazon website:

“A beautiful memoir about young love, the people who come into our lives, and how they can forever change us.  I was drawn in from the very first chapter.”

* * *

“A story of love, joy, loss, hope, and redemption.  K. Kidd has written a wonderful story of the power of love in a person's life, how we deal with loss and tragedy, and how we can see the miraculous hand of God weaving the tapestry of our lives into something beautiful.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

An Imperfect Heart

When I see heart-shaped necklaces that are perfectly symmetrical, I think the jeweler got it wrong.  It wouldn’t make any difference to me if the necklace was covered with huge, sparkly diamonds.  It still would have no appeal to me.  Those perfect heart-shaped necklaces are unrealistic because life isn’t perfect.

I was fifteen when I had my first high school crush.  He was cute, fun, and interesting.  I think I actually floated on air after his first kiss.  Things were going great, until he showed up at school one day holding hands with another girl.  A piece of my heart broke that day but I held my head up high and moved on.  There never was an explanation.  We avoided each other for the next two years.  And it wasn’t until our high school’s 25th reunion that he apologized for his rude treatment.

When I was eighteen I was the one who broke a boy’s heart.  We dated our Senior year of high school and into his first year of college.  I felt that I was too young to tie myself down.  I was working for the Federal Government and there was a lot going on in my life.  It wasn’t him, it really was me.  A piece of my heart broke because I knew the pain I caused him.

When I was nineteen and working at the Pentagon I thought I met “the one.”  The young Army officer seemed to have it all.  Until I found out that I was the one who made him question if his on/off girlfriend was the right one for him.  After a short time he proposed…to the other girl.  He was the right one, just not my right one.  Another piece of my heart chipped away once more.

When I was twenty-one I met Sergei Kourdakov at my office.  He was unlike anyone I had ever met.  The attraction between us was immediate, we both felt it.  Dating a Russian defector was definitely adventurous.  We laughed all of the time and enjoyed every minute we spent together.  When he died it felt like my heart had broken into a million pieces.

Hearts break…pieces are chipped away, and hearts fall apart every day.  Over the years, I learned to pick up the pieces of my heart and gather them together.  Those pieces are life lessons.  We heal; we move on and learn to love again.

* * *

Kindle Countdown Deal

An Amazon promotional deal for the eBook version of
A Rose for Sergei will be held on the following dates.

Take advantage of this $1.99 (half-price) offer!

Start date:  November 8, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.
End date:  November 11, 2014 at midnight

* * * 

Paperback Version Coming Soon!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sergei Kourdakov - The Hype

I never saw Sergei Kourdakov’s adrenalin charged presentations in churches or auditoriums.  His hyped-up image that you read about in newspapers was unfamiliar to me.  I never knew that side of Sergei.  He was never intentionally showy.  Sergei’s stature and awkward new-to-this-country manner, however, did attract attention everywhere he went.  But he never tried to impress me with the public side of his life.  In fact, he was the exact opposite when we were together.  He was not the least pretentious—he was thoughtful, fun, and considerate.  I never saw the hype.

Hype, what is hype actually?  It means publicity, buildup, and hard sell—to promote or publicize extravagantly.  That is exactly how Sergei was portrayed at public events.  He was an outgoing speaker, and it came naturally to him.  Did he like that exaggerated part of his new life in the U.S.?  Honestly, I don’t think he did.  He told me he didn’t quite understand all the attention and publicity he attracted.  It surprised him.

So why all the hype then?  Urban Dictionary describes hype as a clever marketing strategy in which a product is advertised as the thing everyone must have.  If you think about it, in an indirect way, Sergei Kourdakov was the product…what he had to say was the product.  Unfortunately, the marketing and the hype were necessary to make Sergei’s story known.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Intriguing For Sure

I never watch the television show, “The Americans.”  I thought it would bring up too many memories about Sergei Kourdakov, and maybe just a little too close for comfort.  However, I kept a newspaper article about the show written by Jessica Goldstein in the February 23, 2014, Washington Post.  The introductory paragraph explains that the show takes place in the 1980s—the heroes are in the KGB, the enemy is the United States, and no one is who they say they are.  Intriguing for sure, so I continued reading until my heart almost stopped.

Excerpt from the article:

“The Americans” is a marriage story dressed up as a spy flick, with espionage work, and all the secrecy and deception it entails, standing in for the issues we grapple with in real relationships.

Weisberg [Joseph Weisberg, creator and executive producer of “The Americans”] said by phone that “most of the spy stuff in the show is really real.”  (Every script he writes must also be sent to the CIA for approval.)  Some of the most outlandish-seeming plots on the show are based on reality, such as Philip’s pretending to be “Clark” and marrying Martha, a secretary at the FBI.

“It’s this cruel, crazy thing he does to her,” says Weisberg, and it’s very closely based on historical fact.  KGB illegals married secretaries of men who were in specific government and political positions that the KGB wanted to get intelligence on.”

The last sentence in the news article about “marrying government secretaries” is what sent my heart into overdrive.  Breathe . . . just breathe, I thought as I reminded myself that everyone knew where Sergei was from.  Unlike the characters in the TV show, we were all aware Sergei defected from the Soviet Union.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Heartfelt Comment

Below is a short excerpt from A Rose for Sergei.  Sergei Kourdakov and I had just returned to my apartment after an evening out.  I was twenty-one, finally on my own, and thrilled that I had recently moved into my own place.

* * * 
Fall 1972

“Why do you live in such a dump?” Sergei asked.

“What do you mean?  I think this place is all right.”  I was surprised and slightly offended by his question.  My apartment was clean and neat.  I knew I didn’t have much, but I was happy with what I did have.  Except for the hand-me-down sofa and two table lamps, I had paid for everything myself.  I was very proud of that.  I had also purchased my car as well.  It was a used Mustang, in great shape, fun, and fast when it needed to be.  The apartment itself didn’t have many conveniences—no air conditioning, and no garbage disposal or dishwasher.  The washing machines and dryers were in the basement, but at least they were in the basement of my building.  Maybe it wasn’t the safest area for a young woman to live, but I was careful.

“A beautiful girl like you should not have to live in a place like this.  You should have nice things given to you.”

It was such a strange comment; clearly he had a different way of thinking.  Maybe he thought all Americans lived a life of luxury….

“Sergei, I don’t need anyone to give me nice things.  I’m very happy with what I have."

He sat still, lost in his thoughts for a moment.  “I can give you nice things someday,” he said tenderly.

I was surprised by his openness.  It was a very heartfelt comment, and I was struck by his genuine feelings that I should be taken care of…that he wanted to take care of me.  For him to make a statement like that when he left everything in his life behind, when he in essence had nothing, was beyond my comprehension.  He was concerned about me, and it touched my soul deeply.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I Would Not Cry

There were times when I was writing my manuscript for A Rose for Sergei that a certain phrase would trigger a memory and I would wonder . . . where have I heard that before?  At that point I would stop writing and reach for my copy of Sergei’s book, The Persecutor.  I had flagged a lot of passages over the years so it was always easy to thumb through the book to find what I was looking for.  It always surprised me that our backgrounds were so different, but our resolve was often the same.

In the excerpt from The Persecutor below, Sergei writes about a time in the orphanage when he was caught reading a book at night when he was supposed to be sleeping.  He refers to the caregivers as aunt or uncle.  Sergei was only 12 years old at the time.

And he began to beat me, hitting me with the edge of that heavy belt buckle again and again, not caring where it landed.  I jumped about trying to dodge his blows, but he held me in such a grip in his left hand I couldn’t shake loose.  Everywhere that buckle landed, it felt like it broke a bone.  I wondered if he was trying to kill me.

I stumbled back to my bed and fell across it, hurting everywhere in my body.  I was sure I must have broken bones.  That beating hurt me more than any I had ever had in my life, but I wasn’t going to let [the uncle] have the satisfaction of seeing me show any pain.  So I covered my head with my blanket and writhed in agony—but I wouldn’t cry.

-Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor (Chapter 6, pgs. 61-62)

* * *

In the following excerpt from A Rose for Sergei, I am telling about attending Sergei Kourdakov’s funeral in Washington DC.

January 1973

I was surprised at how many people there were at the church for the funeral service.  It was crowded, and we had to stand the entire time.  We were near the back of the church, but I could see that the casket was open again.  I could see Sergei, and my heart filled with pain.  Even though the church was packed with people, he looked so alone. My heart was breaking for him.  They didn’t love him like I did.  I would not cry though; I had cried enough the day he died.

Monday, September 15, 2014

That Isn't Like You

I caught up with an old friend recently.  He and I used to work at the Pentagon and our paths have not crossed for dozens of years.  I suggested he read A Rose for Sergei, but I didn’t give a clear reason as to why.  I didn’t even mention that I wrote it.  “Please read it,” I asked, “consider it your homework.”  With a cheerful goodbye he said he just might do that.

I think my mystery homework request captured his interest because I got a call back a few days later.  “I did my homework, I read the book,” he said.  He was shocked to hear my story and that I would write a book about Sergei.  “You’re such a private person,” he said.  “Why?” he asked, “Writing about your personal life isn’t like you at all.”

He is right, that isn’t like me at all to share something that private.  I tried to explain the reasons why I wrote about Sergei Kourdakov—I don’t want Sergei to be forgotten, I don’t want his story to be discredited, and it is a story that only I could write.  After hearing my explanation, my friend completely changed his mind.  “That actually is like you,” he said.  “That is just like you to want to stand up for him.

Sometimes we do surprise ourselves.  What we don’t think is like us at all . . . turns out to be exactly who we are.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It Started with a Blog

I am often asked by friends, “Why did you write A Rose for Sergei?”  Before I can even reply, that question is quickly followed up by—“Wow, I didn’t know you ever wanted to write a book.”  My response to their surprised reaction is short, “You’re right, I never thought I would write a book either.”  This is how it all came about.

It started with a blog.  But not my blog, though.  It was a Russian History Blog about Sergei Kourdakov.  It seems that Sergei’s book, The Persecutor, still prompts a lot of comments from readers.  Some people believe Sergei’s story, others do not.  Some discussions are argumentative.  From that blog I discovered the independent movie—Forgive Me, Sergei.

It continued with a movie.  I was glad to discover that someone made a documentary film about Sergei Kourdakov because I didn’t want his story to be forgotten.  Good news, I thought at first.  Then I ordered the film and watched it.  It wasn’t what I expected at all.  Don’t get me wrong, it was well done, took several years to complete, and won several awards.  The outcome just wasn’t what I expected because the producer ended up questioning if Sergei’s story was true.

It ended with a book.  The irony here is that if I had not found the blog, or the movie, then there would be no need to write a book.  I knew Sergei Kourdakov personally, and I decided to write a book about him to offer another perspective.  If there are missing pieces to a puzzle, the picture will always be incomplete.  I wanted to add another piece to the puzzle.  If Sergei had not been thoroughly checked out by our government agencies, if his story had not been checked out, my boss would never have introduced me to him.

* * *

From The Register paper, January 19, 1973
By Raymond J. McHugh
Chief, Washington Bureau
Copley News Service

“A frequent visitor to Washington, Kourdakov met privately with U.S. intelligence officials, leaders of Voice of America and the U.S. Information Agency, high-ranking military officers and members of Congress.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Butterfly Effect

I was considering entering my book, A Rose for Sergei, in an eLit Book Award Contest.  I wasn’t sure if it would be of any benefit and if I should take the time.  So I called my sister for advice.  Because Karen is a few years older than I, and therefore must be wiser (which is sometimes debatable), I often ask her for input.  She takes the time to consider all options . . . patience being one of her virtues.

While we were talking on the phone, going over the pros and cons of my idea, Karen suddenly made a snap decision.  Our conversation went something like this:

Karen:  “I’ve got it!  You need to go forward with that idea.”

Me:  “Really, just like that?  No more thoughts on the subject?”

Karen:  “No.  It’s a good idea.”

Me:  “Really?”

Karen:  “Yes it’s a good idea.  I just saw a butterfly float by and I never see butterflies around here!”

Me:  “Sooo . . . because you see a butterfly, I should go ahead?”

Karen:  “Yes.”

Me:  “That’s it then?  You see a butterfly and that’s the answer?”

Karen:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Great, I can’t believe I’m making a decision based on the fact that you saw a butterfly.”  Somehow I knew what was coming next.

Karen:  “The butterfly is a sign!”

Me:  “Oh no . . . here we go with the signs again.”

Karen:  “Yes.  All taken care of.  Decision made.  Bye.”

With that declaration, she hung up the phone.  Sisters!  I love both of mine, they keep me grounded.

Now that my dilemma has been resolved, I will fill out all the forms, pay the fee (of course there is always a fee!) and submit my ebook in the appropriate category.  It will be months before I hear anything back, and I know there are thousands of talented writers . . . my chances of being recognized will be slim.  But I also know this true story about Sergei Kourdakov is long overdue.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Expecting the Best

Now that the e-book version of A Rose for Sergei is complete, I am finalizing plans for the hard copy version.  The electronic format, where you view a book on your computer, Ipad, or e-reader doesn’t seem quite as real to me.  A book is tangible . . . you can hold it and know that it is real.

My former boss is one of the key people in the book—he introduced me to Sergei Kourdakov.  Mr. Logie called me right after he finished reading A Rose for Sergei on his e-reader.  I was glad to hear how much he enjoyed the book.  He and I both agreed that reading about oneself does seem a little strange.  Mr. Logie commented that I was very good with details.  I recall that when I worked for him he always expected the best of everyone—including himself.

He asked when the hard copy of A Rose for Sergei would be ready.  I replied that it would be available in a few months because that format takes a lot longer to produce than an immediate e-book.  “You have to put pictures in the book,” he informed me.  “People will want to see photographs of Sergei.”

I should listen to him, I thought.  His entire career was in the radio and television service business.  He knows what he’s talking about.  I told him my photographs were quite old and the quality was not very good, but I would try to make them work.

Mr. Logie is now in his mid-nineties, and I had not worked for him for over thirty-six years.  Yet, once again he became my boss.  I smiled to myself as we finished our phone conversation.  He was still expecting the best from me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Irony of Existence

My heartfelt thanks to those of you who have read A Rose for Sergei—and a special thanks to those who took the time to write a review.  Reviews help people find books and my purpose in writing this book was so everyone would learn more about Sergei Kourdakov.

One recent review on the Amazon web site caught my attention because it captured the very reason I wanted to write this book . . . so you would know Sergei better.  Reviews on Amazon are in the public domain; therefore, I have reprinted this moving story below.

Close to My Heart
Reviewer:  BethySim

Ah, Sergei.  What can I say?  I couldn’t have been gladder that he came back, that we can read more about him and get to know him better.  This story is touching and bittersweet, embodying the reality of life and at the same time the magic of love.  I highly recommend.

Kolleen and Sergei’s story lies especially close to my heart (as the title of the review suggests) because of my own dealings with a young Russian.  I, like K., am from German descent.  I met a tall, muscular Russian at the end of 2013 when I took a job as an administrative assistant, and I was enraptured by him.  We hit it off very well although we never dated or anything, I treasured the time we were able to spend together before he moved away.  I wish I had an opportunity to know him better, but some things are not meant to be.  It was curious, however, because I met him barely two weeks after finishing “The Persecutor.”  And his middle name is Sergei.  Oh, the irony of existence!

Monday, August 11, 2014

All of Chapter 1

It occurred to me that not everyone was able to read the end of Chapter 1 of A Rose for Sergei on the Amazon website.  And I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t include the ending of Chapter 1 on my blog.  Truth be told, it was my favorite chapter to write.  It sets the tone for the book.

For those of you that were left wondering what happened when Sergei Kourdakov returned to our table in the restaurant you can catch up now.  Chapter 1, in its entirety, is printed below!

A Rose for Sergei

Chapter 1

Key Bridge Marriott

Fall 1972

“Excuse me; I would like to go to the men’s…how do you say in America…restroom?” Sergei asked in his broken English.  “Is that the right way to say that?”

“Yes, that is the right way; you could also say men’s room.  And it’s okay to excuse yourself,” I said.  “It isn’t rude.  I’ll be fine sitting alone a few minutes at the table until you return,” I assured him as I smiled and tried to refrain from laughing.  He was so incredibly polite.  The way he spoke, his broken English combined with his Russian accent, could be very amusing at times.

We were having dinner at the JW Steakhouse at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.  My date was Sergei Kourdakov.  He was twenty-one years old, and he had defected from the Soviet Union over a year ago.  He had been a member of the KGB, the Commissariat for State Security or secret police, and a Soviet naval intelligence officer—intimidating credentials for sure.  He was also very good looking, which I found even more intimidating.

I worked as a secretary at the Office of Information for the Armed Forces, a division that came under the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  I was also twenty-one years old.  We had recently met at my office in Rosslyn, Virginia.  Sergei had flown in from Los Angeles and was meeting with Government Officials in Washington DC.  Sergei’s incredible story was making headlines in the United States.  Future plans were being considered for Sergei to record/broadcast his story in another section of our office, the American Forces Radio and Television Service.  My boss was the liaison officer tasked with assisting Sergei.

As Sergei got up from the table and sauntered off in search of the men’s room, I could see that all eyes in the restaurant were on him.  Both men and women stared at him, even the wait staff.  I was not surprised at their seemingly awestruck reaction.  He was very tall with huge broad shoulders and muscular arms that strained at the seams of his shirt, the result of years of body-building.  His stride was confident, purposeful, and he definitely commanded attention.  He stood out in any crowd.

While I waited for his return, I leaned back in my chair and enjoyed the view out the windows.  The restaurant was on the top floor of the hotel, and you could see all the grandeur of Washington DC, Georgetown, and Georgetown University right across the Potomac River.  The view was breathtaking at night with the city lights twinkling ever-so-slightly in the reflection on the water.  It was captivating; I never tired of that view.  In the early evening the city lights illuminated the streets and radiated a soft, peaceful glow over the city.  The lights also helped hide the scary, dark parts of the city, and I liked that.

I wrapped my fingers around the stem of my wine glass just a little too tightly.  It must be a case of “second date nerves,” I thought.  Just take a deep breath and try to relax, I told myself.  I had been on many dates; however, nothing even came close to this.  Sergei was so different from anyone I had ever met, let alone dated.  He was a Russian defector whose past history with the KGB was nothing to take lightly.  It was serious business, and the element of danger was not lost on me.

My thoughts flashed back to security briefings from when I worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  We were taught to be on the lookout for anyone trying to coerce secret information from us.  These people could be friends or neighbors, someone that you would not ordinarily suspect.  They had a word for people like that…spy.  The thought that Sergei could be a spy did cross my mind, but I knew I had never told him I used to work for DIA.  I brushed those thoughts away for now since I knew I tended to be overly suspicious sometimes.  But then, I always did love mystery and intrigue.

It was hard to believe that Sergei was my date for the evening.  When I was a child I was afraid of Russians.  I never forgot the air raid drills we had in elementary school.  My father was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and my family lived on military bases.  When the air raid siren blasted we practiced hiding under our desks at school, using them for protection from shattered windows, as we prepared for an attack that might one day come from the Soviet Union.  And yet, here I was now, having dinner with…the “enemy.”

In fact the whole scenario did not seem real, meeting like we did.  We were attracted to each other right from the first introduction.  That surprised me, not me being attracted to him, but him being attracted to me.  Next to Sergei, I thought I seemed rather ordinary—petite, five feet tall, slender, blue-green eyes and long, straight sandy blonde hair that flipped up at the ends.  “Cute,” is how most people would describe me.  Although just recently a DC taxi cab driver told me, “A pretty girl like you should not have to pay for anything!”  That taxi ride was definitely one of those scary parts of the city moments.

I jumped as I set my wine glass back down on the table.  Sergei had quietly returned by way of sneaking up behind me and grabbing my shoulders with both of his hands.  His enormous hands seemed to totally engulf my shoulders and upper arms.  He had startled me, and he found that rather funny.  I looked over my left shoulder and I could see him leaning over me with a huge grin on his face.  I had to laugh at myself for being so jumpy.  I turned my head back towards the table.

He bent down lower and whispered in my ear, “No, wait.”

He then placed one hand at the base of my neck and slowly traced a line with his fingers up my neck.  As soon as his fingers reached my chin, he tilted my head upright and straight back so I was looking up toward the ceiling and directly at him as he leaned over me.  I was totally entranced; his touch was gentle and cool on my warm skin.  It was very sensual, and I felt my heart beating rapidly as I let out a slightly inaudible gasp.  I was motionless as he lowered his head and his lips touched mine, ever-so-tenderly.  He kissed me several times in this strange, exciting, upside down position, his hand still holding my chin, his fingers caressing my neck, his tongue brushing against my lips.  And then suddenly, it was over, and he took his place across the table from me and broke into a huge, satisfied smile.

I sat frozen in my chair.  Now that my senses had returned I realized we had created quite a scene right in the middle of the restaurant.  Again all eyes were on him and now on me.  I hoped people thought my red glow was from embarrassment when in reality my cheeks and neck were hot and flushed from his unexpected display of affection.

“What do you think?” Sergei asked.  “Did you like that?”

Did I like that?  Was he serious?  Did I like that?  I was speechless for a minute, trying to compose myself from what was in fact the most incredible kiss I had ever experienced.  It was a kiss that renders you powerless because of its intensity and the meaning behind it.  And yet it was a gentle, yearning kiss.  It was a kiss that exploded through my whole being with a burning desire.  It was like fireworks in my mind, my heart, my soul.  It was a kiss that you wait for your whole lifetime.

“Ummm…well, yes…I did like that,” I shyly responded in all honesty.  I prided myself on my honesty but suddenly wished I had demurred on my answer.  I was still flushed and self-conscious that the rosy glow on my cheeks lingered and that he could tell how I felt about him.  I knew that I was really starting to like him, a lot in fact.  I couldn’t help but wonder why he asked me if I liked his kiss.  I did not have to wait long to find out the reason for his sudden display of affection.

“I kissed you like that because I saw guy kiss girl like that on TV, and I wanted to try it!” he explained in his sexy Russian accent.  He had an expression of delight on his face and looked very pleased with himself.

I couldn’t help but smile back at him; he had an easy way of making me feel comfortable around him, protected, even with the mind-blowing kiss.  How could I be upset about the TV kiss?  He looked so proud of himself regarding that mission.  Mission accomplished, I thought.  Very well accomplished and executed indeed.

We talked incessantly after that, learning more about each other as we enjoyed our dinner.  However, I couldn’t help but notice that Sergei would periodically look around the restaurant, as if scanning the room for something.  What?  What is he looking at, or looking for?  I was curious, but I didn’t mention it then.  We were having a wonderful time together.  And then out of the blue he said the most startling thing to me.

“You are beautiful girl,” he said, dragging out the r’s in his accent as if saying gurrrrl.

His words caught me by surprise, and I blushed slightly.  Well, that comment was certainly unexpected.  I could only smile up at him because once again I was speechless.

“Beautiful girl like you,” he said and then hesitated slightly.  “Beautiful girl like you…you could be spy!” he said in all seriousness.

He stared at me and through me with his piercing blue eyes, a look of concern…or was it confusion…across his face.  My heart sank right then and there.  He thinks I’m a spy!  How did I ever end up in a situation like this?

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Story All By Itself

I called one of my dearest friends last week.  Time and distance seem to keep us from getting together as often as we used to, but our friendship is and always will be a close one.  We go back a long way.  I finally told her about Sergei Kourdakov and my book, A Rose for Sergei.  Patsy was shocked, to put it mildly.  “I have known you for over thirty years and I have never heard you talk about this,” she said in disbelief.  Just like Patsy always does, she stops whatever she is doing, and gives you her full attention.  It is a wonderful trait.  She was getting ready to go out with her husband.  “I have to hear the rest of this story!” she exclaimed.  “You don’t understand . . . my hair’s half done and I’m stopping in the middle of fixing it to listen.  I don’t even know what to say.  You kept this a secret all these years . . . that’s a story all by itself."

After I told her everything, I explained that only my family knew I was writing a book.  I take that back.  Make that my family and a lot of blog readers knew I was writing a book!  You can imagine her surprise when she heard I have been blogging for over a year.  “This story just keeps getting better and better,” Patsy replied in amazement.  We ended the phone conversation with a promise to get together soon.

Keeping something secret all these years is a story all by itself.  But I also feel that A Rose for Sergei is the real story.  It explains so much more than my blog.  The book is about the last few months of Sergei Kourdakov’s life.  It is the true story of our time together.

Monday, July 28, 2014

There Are No Accidents

I was reading a friend’s blog recently and four words jumped out at me, “There are no accidents.”  I, too, believe there is a purpose for everything.  And yes, luck sometimes plays a hand.

I remembered a chapter from Sergei Kourdakov's book where he got involved in some bad business dealings with his friends.  The situation turned serious after the meeting was over and Sergei stepped outside the building:

I [Sergei] figured the meeting was over . . . “I’m going to go down and get some fresh air.  I’ll meet you outside.”  I walked down the corridor, the two flights of stairs, and out the door to the street.  The moment I stepped outside, an explosion ripped the air and blew up right in my face.  I felt a hot, burning sensation beneath my ribs and a fierce impact that knocked the wind out of me.  In a daze I looked down and discovered I was bleeding profusely; my shirt was already covered with blood and my military jacket was starting to get soaked.

I’m shot!  I’m shot!  I dropped to my knees.

“You’ve got to be the luckiest guy around, Sergei,” [his friend exclaimed] while he emptied my raincoat pocket, just over my left breast.  The bullet had gone through my thick address book, all my identification papers, plus all my clothes—raincoat, jacket, shirt, undershirt—to hit me.  It was imbedded in my skin.

-Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor (Chapter 9, pgs. 100-101)

Everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t understand why.  Sergei would have been killed if he hadn’t had his pocket full of thick papers that absorbed the impact from the bullet.  It wasn’t his time.  He would live to come to America.  While writing A Rose for Sergei, I had to keep reminding myself . . . there are no accidents.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Finding Common Ground

I usually read people’s comments in the product review sections when I’m deciding to purchase an item online.  Comments, both positive and negative, are helpful when I have to make a decision.  Sometimes, when something is particularly negative, I cringe and think to myself, “Ouch, that’s harsh.”  I also realize reviews are one of the valuable tools of social media—everyone is free to express their opinion.

Now I find I am on the receiving end of reviews and comments regarding A Rose for Sergei.  I hope that anyone who reads my book will enjoy it, but realistically I know that isn’t always the case.

One reviewer posted an interesting summary on Amazon this past weekend for A Rose for Sergei.  Part of that review is below.

“The author tells her story of falling in love with a former KGB officer, Sergei Kourdakov.  This unusual romance, between an Air Force Colonel’s daughter and a Russian defector, leads to finding common ground and learning to understand that love makes its own choices.”

I really liked the writer’s take on my book.  Sergei and I did find common ground even though our lives were so very different.


The entire first two chapters of A Rose for Sergei can be read for free at the Amazon website by clicking on the “Look inside” icon when you are on their website.  It is not necessary to own a Kindle device if you would like to read this book—you can download the Free Kindle app for Smartphones, tablets, and computers—and then purchase/download the book to whichever location you prefer.

 Look inside