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Month: May 2017

Fort Ross Friday: An Exciting Announcement!

My Alternate History short story, entitled “Zolota: Another Gold Rush” is being published in an anthology this autumn.  California: It’s All About the Story will feature stories with a California theme, including various genres.

“Zolota” is about Fort Ross and what would have happened if the Russian settlers had discovered gold in 1838.

Weekly Wednesday: Episode 13


Reading: Finishing up White Shanghai before I read Rich People Problems, the final book in the Crazy Rich Asians series by Kevin Kwan.  White Shanghai is very good — it’s the story of Russian emigres in Shanghai in the 1920’s.  The style is very Russian, which is great, but there are a few small translation errors (like using Ms. when they should, historically speaking, use Miss — it’s almost like the translator thinks Ms. is an abbreviation for Miss).  I find this whole period in history very interesting and I would love to read more about it.

Watching:  The Handmaid’s Tale and The Wall and Victorian Slum House.  I also found Mommy Dead and Dearest very interesting and I want to start watching The Keepers on Netflix.  I really like having documentaries (usually historical or true crime) on in the background while I write.

Listening:  Enjoying the Beatles station.  It’s awesome.

Doing: Attending all kinds of family events…graduations, anniversary celebrations…so, so busy.  (That’s why this post is short.)

Planning:  An exciting announcement here on the blog!

Writing:  The Lion and the Eagle is my main project at the moment.  It started out as a NaNoWriMo manuscript but is now getting an entirely new voice and style.

Obsessing Over: The tracking updates for my new Kindle Manga Edition, shipped from Japan.

Monarchy Monday: Why Japan’s Princess Mako is Giving Up Her Title

Princess Mako of Japan will be giving up her title when she marries a commoner.  That much, the media has correct.  But what the Western media hasn’t covered, and probably isn’t even aware of, is that there is virtually no way for a Japanese princess to marry and retain her title.

Prior to the end of WWII and the Imperial Household Law of 1947, the Japanese Imperial Family was much larger.  They, like the British royals, had a large extended family who could inherit the throne and also a large aristocracy.  Back then, if a princess were to marry a nobleman, she would remain a princess.  However, after the war, the nobility was abolished and the Imperial Household streamlined.  Now, there are no nobles to marry, and no way for a princess to retain her title.

In Princess Mako’s case, however, her fiance is not part of the former nobility, and she would have lost her title either way.


Fort Ross Friday: The Rotchev House

The Rotchev House is the only original building left at Fort Ross.  In fact, it is the only Russian-era building built by Russian Settlers left in North America, outside of Alaska, that is.  When we visited, the exterior was being refurbished, so I was unable to get a good photo.  However, this one was in the public domain.

Here I am, exiting the Rotchev house.  The house was home to the last Commander of the fort, Alexander Rotchev, and his wife, Yelena Pavlovna (formerly Princess Yelena Pavlovna Gagarina).  Yelena was a member of the nobility before her marriage, though she had to give up her title to marry Rotchev.  She was a very elegant hostess, and her home was well furnished, with beautiful wallpaper and Turkish rugs.

These days, the wallpaper and rugs and original furnishings did not survive the various changes of ownership, etc, that the fort has endured.  Instead, the furniture is all either reproduction or other antiques of the period.  All the original pieces are in the museum near the gift shop.  However, the exhibits do give a good sense of what the Rotchev House was once like.

One thing the Rotchev family was famous for was their piano and a score of Mozart, which Yelena and her daughters would play.  In this room, the restoration included wall coverings of the type found in other Russian homes of the time period.

When the Russians left the Fort, Rotchev and his wife returned to Russia, abandoning their beloved home in California.  They eventually separated.


The Rotchev House: Home of the Last Manager of Fort Ross/Дом А. Г. Ротчева — последнего правителя селения и крепости Росс Edited by Lyn Kalani, Natalia Gubina, and Reyza Sarjan Holt (bilingual book, English/Russian, published by Minuteman Press, Berkeley, CA)

Fort Ross: The Rotchev House

All photos taken by my father and me, except for the first, which is in the public domain.

Weekly Wednesday: Episode 12


Reading: Cold Summer, by Gwen Cole.  It’s one of the most interesting takes on time travel that I’ve ever seen — a little like The Time Traveler’s Wife in terms of it not being something he can control.  He travels back to a battlefield in WWII, however, and the story is told in alternating points of view (something I’ve always been a sucker for) with his friend Harper telling the story alongside him.  I love the formatting of the book — each chapter has a picture of a tree at the beginning; Harper’s is lush and full, like summer, while Kale’s is a barren winter tree with no leaves, to symbolize his travel to the cold battlefield.

Watching:  The Handmaid’s Tale and The Wall still.  Also Victorian Slum House.  I really liked 1900 House back in the day, and this is its darker, edgier cousin.

Listening:  Getting excited for the new Beatles station on XM radio, launching tomorrow!

Doing: Getting the date of our anniversary dinner wrong (lol!) — it’s actually this Saturday.  Accompanied my husband to his high school reunion on Saturday (we had reversed the dates in our heads) and still excited for our anniversary dinner this weekend.  🙂

Planning:  Planning out the family activities for the summer — and really, I just want to take a break from a lot of things to be able to write more.  Time to scale back, have a laid back summer, and get things done.

Writing:  The Lion and the Eagle — brought the first chapter in to my critique group last Thursday, hoping to polish up more to bring in this week.

Obsessing Over: Finding all the best little historical details…

Weekly Wednesday: Episode 11


Reading: Now that I’ve finished Fatherland  and Flirting with Fame I feel a little bit of a “book hangover” and I’ve been reading manga to get out of it.  Glass Mask is awesome, although there is no official English translation (free scans online, though).  I justify it by knowing that if it ever is published in English, I will be the first to buy it.

Watching:  The Handmaid’s Tale is still going strong, and I’m excited to see that The Wall is back on TV.  I haven’t found the time to watch the new episode, but my dad said it was a real roller-coaster, so I’m looking forward to it.

Listening:  Just music in the car lately.

Doing: Playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch.  Yes, we had the Wii U version — but I do prefer this one for online play, and the autodriving options are good for kids and new players.  Plus, bringing it to a party on Monday night was a lot of fun!

Planning:  The next wave of queries — and looking forward to our anniversary dinner this Saturday.

Writing:  The Lion and the Eagle — hoping to bring some revised chapters to my critique group tomorrow.

Obsessing Over:  My online points Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.  New goal: stop sucking.

Fort Ross Friday: The Russian American Company in Sonoma County

If you’re missing Figure Skating Friday, never fear — it will return in June with off season fun and silly speculation about the upcoming Olympic season.  But, for now, enjoy this special feature about Russia’s southern-most settlement in North America.

If you have never heard of Fort Ross, you might be asking yourself what Russians were doing in California and why you’ve never heard about this before.  As it happens, Sonoma County, CA is a very unique place, being home to both the northern-most Spanish mission and the southern-most Russian settlement in North America.

The Russians wanted to trade with the Spanish and also to grow crops to support their growing endeavors in Alaska, where the climate was too harsh to grow food well and people died of malnutrition and scurvy. In 1812, Fortress Ross was established along the coast in Northern California, near the modern day town of Jenner in what is now Sonoma County.  Russian settlers, Alaskan Natives, and local Natives lived and worked together at Fort Ross for the next thirty years.

While only one original building, the Rotchev House (home to the fort’s last commander), survives today, the state park still offers a glimpse into what life was like in Russian America in the 19th century.  The fort brought such innovations as the first glass windows in the history of California and an early attempt at wildlife conservation that came about when the local sea otter population started to dip due to over-hunting and quotas were imposed.

Fort Ross was also unique because of the positive relationship between the settlers and the Native Americans.  When the fort was established, the Russian American Company paid the local Natives for the land.  Settlers and Natives intermarried over the years, resulting in the birth of creole children, who were given higher status than Natives.  The Russians did not force religious conversions or a Russian way of life on the Native people, and so relations were cordial and Native Alaskans had a village of their own near the fort, constructed in their traditional manner.


All photos taken by my father and me, April 2017

Weekly Wednesday: Episode 10


Reading: Fatherland by Robert Harris to spark my Alternate History writing.  It’s a thriller set in an alternate 1960s Berlin where the Nazis won and America is considering detente with Germany.  I’m not very far into it, but it’s very interesting and the author shows his research well without getting bogged down in the details.  I’m also reading Flirting with Fame by Samantha Joyce, which is about a teenage author who is hiding her real identity because she is insecure about her looks.  It’s very interesting and feels lighthearted even though there are very dark themes present.

Watching: Dancing with the Stars was sad this week for any skating fan, really.  I’m not sure if I want to keep watching, as I was mainly rooting for Nancy.  The new episode of The Handmaid’s Tale was very good, as always.  Don’t let the bastards grind you down, readers!  That was always a fun little bonus to me, as a former Latin student.  “Semper ubi sub ubi,” as well.

Listening:  To the news as I write this, wondering what the news is going to be from the British royal family.

Doing:  Just got back from Disneyland — that’s why this post is much later than a normal “Weekly Wednesday.”

Planning: Blog posts still — so boring to say, but that’s what needs to get done around here.

Writing:  Just submitted my short story to the anthology.  I hope it is accepted!  I’m also looking at doing Pit Mad again in June, but sending out more queries for On Thin Ice in the meantime.  BUT The Lion and the Eagle is calling my name again…

Obsessing Over: Honestly — not much, just hoping it isn’t bad news out of England…

Monarchy Monday: Behind the Crown, Season 1, Episode 2

And so the examination of the accuracy of Netflix’s hit show The Crown begins again with the second episode, “Hide Park Corner.”

As always, SPOILERS  abound in this post.  Spoilers for later episodes will be marked with further warnings.

Note: I will refer to the Queen as “Princess Elizabeth” when referencing events before she ascended to the throne.

This episode is stuffed full of historical detail, and most of it is quite accurate.  I really do applaud the writers of The Crown for just how close to the mark they are.


-The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) really did have to take her ailing father’s place on the Commonwealth Tour.  And her father really did brave the cold to see her off, and some say that this contributed to his death, just five days later.

-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip really did stay at a treehouse hotel in Kenya, and she was there when she became Queen.  A big game hunter wrote in his log book, “for the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into the tree as a princess and climbed down as a queen.”

-The red government dispatch boxes are real.  And Churchill really did dictate from the bathtub — his secretary really did sit just outside the closed door.

-The King was discovered dead in bed by a servant.

-The episode’s title “Hide Park Corner” really was the secret government code to spread word of the King’s death.

-Churchill and Queen Mary were the first people outside of Sandringham House (the estate where the King died) and the royal household staff to be notified.

-Princess Elizabeth really was a mechanic during the war (although I’ve never seen any claims that she had to repair a Jeep in Kenya).

-The new Queen really was difficult to contact, due to the remote nature of Treetops.  Word is relayed to Sagana Lodge, and Prince Philip breaks the news to his wife.

-The Queen really was asked what name she would take as Queen.

-The new Queen returned to England immediately after finding out about her father’s passing, as seen in the above video.

-SPOILERS FOR LATER EPISODES in the article. The Queen really did want to keep the private secretary who had served her before her ascension, but was discouraged from doing so for political reasons.

-Churchill’s speech eulogizing the King is a bit summarized and a few words are changed, but is largely accurate, with direct quotes used in the show.


-SPOILERS FOR LATER EPISODES in the article.  Venetia Scott is a completely fictional character.

-There is no evidence that Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip got so very close to charging elephants or that they were ever any danger from the Kenya wildlife.  I’m filing this under “false” instead of “unknown,” because it appears to have been made up for the sake of drama on the show.


-The King went shooting the day before he died with his friend Lord Fermoy, not with his doctor.  He spent the day playing with Prince Charles and Princess Anne and had dinner with Princess Margaret.  There’s no evidence of him singing while she played piano, however.

-There were concerns about Churchill’s age and ability to govern. It is unclear how soon these concerns became widespread within the Conservative Party, however.


-The exact nature of the King’s conversations with his doctors is, of course, unknown.  Did the doctor dismiss any concern about the King’s health as being just due to “age” rather than lung cancer, etc?  Or was he bluntly honest with his patient about the coughing and any other symptoms?  No one knows.

-The exact details of events at Sandringham after the King’s death are unknown.  I HIGHLY doubt that Princess Margaret was present of part of the embalming, however.

-Speaking of Princess Margaret, it is also unknown when her relationship with Peter Townsend began.  There is no known evidence of them sneaking around at Sandringham at this time, but it did add drama to the episode.

-The letter from Queen Mary to her granddaughter, the new Queen Elizabeth, is likely fictionalized or entirely fabricated.

-Queen Mary’s dramatic curtsy at the end of the episode may or may not have occured.


-Front page news and primary source articles on the King’s death:

New York Times

The Sunday Graphic