Russia in the Waning Days of the Romanov Dynasty, 1906: Doomed

The Romanovs, 1613 – 1918, p. 530:

As the pogromchiki were killing 3,000 Jews from Vilna to Kishinev, two junior bureaucrats — Alexander Dubrovin and a rabble-rousing pogromist from Kishinev, Vladimir Purishkevich — formed a Union of Russian People, a movement of noblemen, intellectuals, shopkeepers and thugs who rallied support for “Tsar, faith and fatherland” around extreme nationalism and anti-semitic violence. The Union was the political wing of rightist vigilantes, the Black Hundreds, who fought revolutionaries and slaughtered Jews. Fascists fourteen years before the word was invented in Italy, the Black Hundreds marched in the tsar’s name but despised his compromises with parliamentarians.

Clearly, dear blog readers, the seeds of the Holocaust were planted long, long before World War II. The Romanovs were anti-Semites. Tsar Nicholas II’s “table-talk was peppered with anti-Jewish banter, typical of many a European aristocrat of this era — telling his mother how a courtier ‘amused us very much with funny Jewish stories — wonderfully good at imitating Jews and even his face suddenly looks Jewish!’ . . .  To him, a newspaper was a place where ‘some Jew or other sits . . .  making it his business to stir up passions of peoples against each other.’ ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


First Sentence, Work-in-Progress

Get up!

THE ROMANOVS, 1613-1918, p. 52

Hugely enjoying this massive tome, so much so that self took it with her to Black Panther, and kept reading until the theater lights went down.

Chapter on Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, also known as the “Young Monk” :

Meschersky found the chief armourer Bogdan Khitrovo, nicknamed the “Whispering Favourite,” guarding the Red Staircase, brandishing his jewel-encrusted staff of office to hold back importuning crowds. He punched Meschersky.

“You shouldn’t strike me — I’m here on duty.”

“Who are you?” asked Khitrovo, who knew perfectly well.

“The patriarch’s servitor.”

“Don’t make so much of yourself. Why should we respect the patriarch?” and with that he smashed him on the head with his baton, sending him bleeding back to Nikon.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: BIRDS

Self loves participating in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenges. This week’s challenge is BIRDS.

Since self is a writer, she has a lot of books. When she travels, there are more books in her suitcase than clothes.

Two years ago, in London, self was trying to heft a suitcase onto a double decker. The bus driver actually left the wheel to help her (This would never happen in San Francisco. Or Redwood City, that’s for sure!). Self tried to warn him. He took one tug at self’s bag, gave her a sharp look, and said: “I tell you, it must make you feel really good leaving home, knowing you’ve brought all your books along with you.”

When she’s in London, she always stays in Bloomsbury. Which means, of course, frequent trips to the London Review Bookshop. She was so good, this last trip. She only bought four books. One of them was a book of Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery, by David Attenborough and Susan Owens.

Here’s one of the illustrations: Frigate Pelican, by John James Audubon, from his groundbreaking collection The Birds of America (published 1822):


Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


#amreading GRRM’s A CLASH OF KINGS

In preparation for Game of Thrones‘ final season, airing sometime 2019, self has set herself the task of reading the books. She’s read one so far; it was in her cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig two years ago, and it was still there when she returned last year.

Writing dialogue is hard. Writing Game of Thrones fan fiction dialogue is even harder, especially when one hasn’t read the books. George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones dialogue is so on point!


Maester Luwin to Bran Stark, p. 442, A Clash of Kings:

“We look at mountains and call them eternal, and so they seem . . . but in the course of time, mountains rise and fall, rivers change their courses, stars fall from the sky, and great cities sink beneath the sea. Even gods die, we think. Everything changes.

“Perhaps magic was once a mighty force in the world, but no longer. What little remains is no more than the wisp of smoke that lingers in the air after a great fire has burned out, and even that is fading. Valyria was the last ember, and Valyria is gone. The dragons are no more, the giants are dead, the children of the forest forgotten with all their lore.

“No, my prince. Jojen Reed may have had a dream or two that he believes came true, but he does not have the greensight. No living man has that power.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Reading CONCLAVE, by Robert Harris

p.73: Filipino Sighting

“His name is Vincent Benitez. He’s the Archbishop of Baghdad.”

“Baghdad? I wasn’t aware we had an archbishop in such a place. Is he an Iraqi?”

“Hardly! He’s a Filipino. The Holy Father appointed him last year.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amwritinghistoricalfiction: Manila, 1757

Self making this up as she goes along. From her novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores, p. 135:

“Manila is a city of 50,000 souls,” Saturnino says, with an air of pride. “It is one of the largest cities in the Orient. A river, the Pasig, empties into the bay just below the Fort. Both sides of this river are built up with industry. You will find no want of commerce here.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

LANDSCAPES OF THE MIND: Mendocino Art Center, 27 & 28 January 2018

“You said on the phone the other day that you’re a teacher?”


“What subject do you teach?”

“Everything, pretty much.”

Exotics, by Callan Wink (Granta 128, Summer 2014)

This coming weekend, self is teaching.

A two-day writing workshop on just one subject: Landscapes.

Students will try their hand at writing only one thing: landscapes, both real and invented.

You do not need to be a tested writer, only a writer who is willing to be tested.

Thank you, Mendocino Art Center, for allowing self this opportunity.


  • A journey is more than just a movement through physical space. It is also movement through an emotional landscape. This writing workshop will be about journeys, both real and imagined: journeys of retrieval and nostalgia, as well as journeys of discovery. We’ll map emotions, moods, as well as physical space. We’ll do it all by sitting in one physical space. I’ll share my process with you. I’ll show you how.

Albion, California: January 2017

Stay tuned.

#amreading: GRRM’s A CLASH OF KINGS

Very belatedly reading the books, and doing it in very random fashion (but she has a whole year, at least, until Game of Thrones Season 8 airs)

“They tell me you are called Weasel. That will not serve. What name did your mother give you?”

She bit her lip, groping for another name. Lommy had called her Lumpyhead, Sansa used Horseface, and her father’s men once dubbed her Arya Underfoot, but she did not think any of those were the sort of name he wanted.

“Nymeria,” she said. “Only she called me Nan for short.”

A Clash of Kings, p. 694

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


DARKEST HOUR: What’s Up With Joe Wright

2nd full day back in America, 2nd movie: Darkest Hour.

So dull.

Self has seen Atonement, which made her cry buckets.

Not that she expects every Joe Wright to make her cry buckets, just that she likes movies to engage her emotions and this one didn’t.

Well, self did feel bad for the 4,000 British troops at Calais who were ordered to attack the advancing Germans, all to enable the main body of the British army to be evacuated from Dunkirk (almost 300,000 men)

Perhaps self was in a mood because she did not get to see I, Tonya.

Instead she got to watch Gary Oldman do Winston Churchill and his portrayal was rather baffling. Self had no idea that Churchill was such a bumbling, distracted man, whose only skill apparently was a penchant for rousing words and an ability to get the pulse of the British people.

He was a populist! Who would have thought!

The scene in the underground was very, very contrived.

Two stars, maybe?

Kudos nevertheless to Stephen Dillane for making her completely forget Stannis Baratheon in his portrayal of Churchill antagonist Viscount Halifax, and to Samuel West for still being Samuel West, and to Lily James for performing the role of ingenue/typist so flawlessly.

Someone started coughing loud in the last half hour or so of the movie, and a young woman yelled, from way across the theatre: Hey, would you do your coughing outside?

Which surprised self exceedingly because she didn’t notice any young people in the audience before the lights went down. But it is a very good thing to know that young people are interested in watching this movie that has absolutely no battle scenes (i.e.,  more spittle than blood).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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