WIPpet Wednesday—A sad anniversary

I’m readying my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, for republication, stripped of all the superfluous accent aigus in Russian names and words (plus a couple of minor edits). Until I’m finished checking to make sure everything’s perfect, I’ll be doing the going back and forth between two computers thing. Instead of converting back and forth between Pages, Word, and HTML, I’m just doing all the necessary changes in the HTML file on my older computer. The hyperlinked table of contents will be lost if I convert the document in and out of Word, since the current version of Pages doesn’t have that feature.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the cover designer I contacted about a revamped cover (based on the drawing I made, not something entirely new). I’m really anxious to hear back and see if the price is right, so I can see what kind of illustration she can make to improve upon my original. If I like it enough, I think I’ll ask her to do at least the cover for The Twelfth Time, which I may release later this year after all. I even found a perfect shot of Theda Bara to base Lyuba after for that cover (minus the torn sleeve):


Today, 19 August, is the 12th anniversary of my car accident. Given the nature of the accident, it’s a miracle I survived, let alone got off with a severely broken tibia and fibula and some first- and second-degree burns as my worst injuries. I really believe my Southern Italian body type saved my life, since I had less distance to fall and more flesh to cushion the impact. A taller, thinner person might’ve been thrown or crushed. I might only be one-eighth Italian, but that part of my ancestry was strong enough to manifest in a short, zaftig frame (minus my tiny little shoulders and slim arms).

I’m also lucky only my right leg broke, since both were pinned under the backseat driver’s side wheel. My right leg rolled on top of the left and protected it. One of the child psychologists who saw me back in the Eighties believed I was right-legged, but I’ve become left-legged since the accident. My right leg’s final act as my dominant leg was stopping the car. If my leg hadn’t blocked that car from going any further, that old woman would’ve continued driving and possibly killed me.

Had I died at age 23, I would’ve shared my Jahrzeit (death anniversary) with Groucho Marx and Blaise Pascal. I couldn’t walk for 11 months, and had 7 surgeries (4 leg, 3 plastic) related to my accident.


WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 27 lines, for 19+2++0+1+5, and relating it to a sad anniversary in my WIP. Aleksey, now almost fifteen, has awoken in the middle of the night a year to the day since he lost his parents, and has put on all the lights in his room. As he’s finishing up an abstract painting conveying his feelings and the nightmarish flashbacks, a panic attack strikes.


Hoping to open some windows for fresh air, he went to stand up, but found himself paralyzed in place.  He could still feel his legs, but couldn’t compel them to move.  His hands shook as he rolled up his pajama pant legs and fumbled for the buckles on the right caliper.  This wasn’t successful either, as his fingers were shaking too badly to perform any sort of fine motor operation.

“What’s happening in here?” Mikhail asked. “Why are there so many lights on in the middle of the night?  I heard odd noises and went to investigate, thinking there might be a rodent.”

Aleksey opened his mouth to respond, but his throat was too dry to speak, and his tongue was just as paralyzed as his legs.  He struggled to raise his arm and point at the calendar.

Mikhail’s eyes softened. “It’s been a year since you lost your parents, hasn’t it?”

Aleksey could only nod.

“What are you painting?  That’s a lot darker and more abstract than anything I’ve ever seen you draw.” Mikhail looked down and saw his nephew’s rolled-up pant legs. “Were you trying to remove your calipers?  You’ve made too much progress to suddenly reverse it all now.”

“It’s the cellar.” He barely managed to utter these words. “If I put it on paper, it might leave my mind forever.”

Mikhail strode over to his nephew, knelt by him, and enfolded him in his arms. “Those memories will live as long as you do.  You can’t just compel them out of your brain by painting them, drawing them, sculpting them, or writing about them.  If I could, I’d put all your bad memories in a sealed iron box and throw it into the bottom of the ocean, but memory doesn’t work like that.  We have to live with all our memories, both good and bad, our entire lives.  We can’t just remember the happy times.  Ugly memories are part of who we are, and shape us into the people we become.”


Aleksey and his great-uncle Grand Duke Pavel Aleksandrovich, who was murdered by the Bolsheviks with three other grand dukes in January 1919, just too late for Maksim Gorkiy to deliver a release signed by Lenin

WIPpet Wednesday—Hopeless situation

Here are some of my recent pictures from around the pond:






WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 23 lines, for 5 x (201)5=25, minus 2015.

The palace pediatrician has used the deathbed of 35-month-old Prince Savva to start voicing some legitimate but ill-timed concerns, followed by outright disrespect and insinuations that Grand Duke Mikhail intends to steal his nephew’s birthright, make his commoner wife Empress, and install his morganatic son as the heir. Mikhail reacts with outrage, but is a lot less harsh than he should’ve been. He soon grows to regret this, as he suspects this doctor may be in cahoots with the hated Vladimirovichi. They’re the ones who really have their eyes on the throne, and don’t even attempt to disguise their ambitions.


Mikhail stormed towards the doctor and pointed to the door. “You’re going back to your quarters right now, and will vacate my home as soon as you’ve collected all your belongings.  You’re damned lucky I’m not ordering you to vacate under armed guard and that I won’t be subjecting you to an interrogation, since you’ve been very loyal and conscientious until this outrageous behavior just now.  I’ll get one of the other doctors to come here in your stead, and when it’s payday, you’ll receive your final salary congruent to the number of days you worked this month.  I can’t believe such impudence from a loyal servant, and at now of all times.”

The doctor put his instruments back into his black bag, stood up, and marched to the door in silence.  As soon as he was gone, Mikhail picked up the phone and asked to be connected to Dr. Merkulov.  He explained the situation, his voice running over with rage and his hands shaking, and promised to pay Dr. Merkulov extra for sitting with Savva in his final hours.  When the phonecall was over, Mikhail went into the hall to smoke a cigarette.

“I could about go for a cigarette myself now,” Konstantin said. “Nothing can take my mind off of this, but a cigarette would at least make me feel better superficially.”

“Go ahead,” Mikhail called. “You all deserve it.”

Copyright Gentil Hibou

Konstantin smoothed Savva’s hair before taking the unresponsive child off his lap so he could get a package of Gauloises and matches from a drawer in the nightstand.  After he’d distributed cigarettes and lit them for everyone, he went back to sitting on the bed with Savva on his lap.  Aleksey could only inhale the smoke and wish he were allowed to smoke.  Just about everyone in his extended family, both men and women, smoked, even people who weren’t yet adults.  No one in his immediate family ever offered him a cigarette, even a few puffs on theirs, and he didn’t want to find out what might happen if he smoked in secret and word got back to his uncle, sisters, or brothers-in-law.


General consensus is that he’s only pretending to smoke in this photo, for reasons including the uncharacteristically pushed-back cap

Dr. Merkulov arrived ten minutes later, and found the same lack of vital signs as the palace pediatrician had.  The only signs of life were a weak pulse and shallow, involuntary breathing, both of which would slowly shut down as the cerebral hemorrhage increased and put more strain on the small, fragile little body.  Dr. Merkulov made the sign of the cross over Savva, then crossed himself.  This was just what had killed Aleksey’s cousin Heinrich and uncle Frittie, now visited upon a fourth generation.  Now more than ever, he was determined to avoid marriage and potentially creating yet another sick child.


By 1922, people obviously knew enough to know hemophilia is passed along by women, but since not enough men had survived long enough to father children, it wasn’t entirely understood if men could pass it on as well. Today, we know a hemophiliac can’t have sick sons himself, unless his partner is either a carrier or rare female hemophiliac. All their daughters, however, will be automatic carriers, and thus it’s the maternal-line grandsons at risk.

WIPpet Wednesday—Disrespectful doctor

Some of my recent pictures from my walks around the pond:






WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 29 lines, for the 29th of the month.

Savva, the 35-month-old firstborn child of Grand Duchess Olga and Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger, is on his deathbed with a cerebral hemorrhage and has just had Extreme Unction performed. Shortly after the ceremony, the palace pediatrician becomes extremely chutzpahdik (impudent; disrespectful) and starts seriously overstepping his bounds and behaving extremely inappropriately.

“Marital hygiene” is an old-fashioned euphemism for birth control.


Prince Konstantin and his seven surviving siblings, circa 1907. I’m at least 90% sure Konstantin is third from the left in the front.

“Please forgive me for broaching such a sensitive subject, Your Highness,” the doctor told Konstantin, “but I really hope your third child is a girl.  You don’t want to have three sick boys in a row.  And whatever this coming child is, you shouldn’t risk further children after already having two sons stricken with this curse.  You know your wife is a carrier, and that this dreaded characteristic wasn’t just a fluke with one child.  I’m sure any of your priests will grant you permission to employ marital hygiene with these extenuating circumstances.  It’s not like you’re anywhere near to the order of succession and need an heir and some spares.”

“My children are Divine blessings,” Konstantin said softly. “I have seven surviving siblings, and wanted my own family so badly for so many years.  My wife and I aren’t having children as some kind of dynastic security blanket.  I’d want a lot of children even if I hadn’t been born a prince.”

The doctor turned to Aleksey. “And you, Your Majesty.  I really don’t mean to be morbid or disrespectful, but I hope this has moved you to change your mind about heading off to Paris for four years.  With your condition, you never know when it’s going to be your time.  Even if you don’t reign for very long, at least secure the dynasty by marrying and producing an heir.  No one wants to see the succession shift to you-know-whom.”

“This isn’t the time or place to discuss such things,” Mikhail said. “I’m very disappointed in you for even broaching such subjects at a child’s deathbed.  If you value your esteemed position, you won’t speak any further on such matters.”

“Yes, Your Imperial Highness.  But we must discuss these things as soon as possible.”

“That’s entirely up to my family’s discretion.  The dynasty is secure in my hands, and my nephew will take the appropriate measures to keep it secure once it’s his turn on the throne.  The particulars aren’t your concern.”

“It should’ve been his turn on the throne since two years ago.  Do you really intend to hand over the reins at some point, or do you plan to steal your nephew’s birthright?  You may have grown too fond of your position as Regent, and His Majesty is too innocent to understand your scheme.  I hope to God you’re not amending the House Laws again, so your morganatic son can inherit the throne and your commoner wife can become Empress.  It was bad enough you already revised them once, even if part of those revisions were for an understandable, realistic reason.”

WIPpet Wednesday—No chance for a miracle

A few of my favorite recent pictures from my walks around the pond:





WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 23 lines, for 22+2015.

Aleksey’s 18th birthday party has been adjourned in the wake of one of his nephews, 35-month-old Prince Savva Konstantinovich, suffering a cerebral hemorrhage after a minor fall. Some people left for the rival Vladimir Palace to continue their merrymaking, and then Aleksey himself left the party for his nephew’s sick bed, over several protests. As much as he hates having to revisit the kind of scene which is now just the stuff of nightmarish memories, it’ll be far worse to remain at the banquet.


Unhappily taking a therapeutic mud bath in the Crimea

By the time Aleksey had reached Olga and Konstantin’s room, the palace pediatrician had been summoned and Savva lay unresponsive on the bed.  One of the palace chapel’s priests was also in the room.  Almost more heart-stopping than the sight of Savva was Olga, who sat in a corner clutching a prayer rope.  She hadn’t looked so catatonic and melancholic since captivity.

“This is very bad,” the doctor said. “The child has lost consciousness, and will probably be gone before daybreak.  There are six other priests on their way here to perform Extreme Unction.  He’s too far gone for mere Last Rites.”

“Are you absolutely sure he can’t make a miraculous recovery?” Konstantin asked. “My brother-in-law here was given up for dead so many times, even after Last Rites, and today he’s reasonably healthy.  Don’t plan my firstborn child’s funeral while he’s still in the land of the living.”

The doctor shook his head. “I’m truly sorry, Your Highness, but this is a cerebral hemorrhage, and your son lost consciousness very quickly.  As much danger as His Majesty was in all those years ago, at least that hemorrhage wasn’t in his brain.  Who knows what caused that miraculous remission.”

“It sure as hell wasn’t that damned monk,” Mikhail said, facing a window. “Whatever happens, please don’t use this tragedy as an excuse to invite another person like that into our home.  Once was bad enough.”

“Oh, believe me, we won’t be inviting any crazed monks into this home,” Konstantin said. “I’m sure we all remember what his influence led to, and no one wants to repeat that devastation ever again.”

Twenty minutes later, the other six priests hurried into the room, carrying seven candles, a bowl of wheat with a shrine lamp, wine, olive oil, and seven anointing brushes.  Savva still hadn’t regained consciousness, nor was there there any sign he was recovering.  During the entire ceremony, he lay motionless across his father’s lap.

WIPpet Wednesday—Party prematurely ended


Here’s a recent picture of my geese, who are kind enough to let me get really close to take pictures and videos. It’s getting harder and harder to tell the four babies apart from the adults. Their rapid growing-up, over only two months, just drives home one of the things I wrote about in Pet rabbits, chickens, and ducks should be for keeps, not just Easter (my fifth-most-viewed post). The cute baby stage doesn’t last long in animals, and you have to understand and respect how quickly animals mature. A stuffed animal stays cute, unlike a real-life counterpart.


WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. There are 15 sentences this week, for the 15th of the month.

These lines are from the opening chapter of Part II of my alternative history. A large banquet is held for Aleksey’s 18th birthday in August 1922, on the eve of his leaving for Paris to study at the Sorbonne. All seems to be going fairly well until his grandmother, the always-opinionated Dowager Empress, starts suggesting brides for him. A distant cousin has the nerve to challenge her wisdom in arranging marriages, and then one of Grand Duchess Olga’s sons suffers a cerebral hemorrhage. This is the fourth generation to be afflicted by hemophilia.


The Dowager Empress (then just the Tsesarevna, the wife of the Tsesarevich) and her firstborn child, the future Nicholas II

“I can’t believe how eager you are to marry off your grandson, after how spectacularly you failed at arranging your own children’s marriages,” some distant cousin at the next table said. “Is this your way of trying to make up for your past mistakes?  I suppose at least you’re making the effort as early as possible, instead of inviting the risk of a romance with a commoner or first-cousin.  God knows, we can’t afford to jeopardize the dynasty with an unequal marriage and let those scheming Vladimirovichi steal the throne.”

A stunned silence filled the room, with everyone frozen.  Just as Mikhail had opened his mouth to finally break the silence, a loud squeal pierced the air.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind as to the cause of the squealling when Konstantin pushed back his chair and ran towards the source.  It was just a question of which young prince had hurt himself, thirty-five-month-old Savva or eighteen-month-old Yulian.

The squealling had given way to an eerie silence by the time Konstantin came back to their table, little Prince Savva motionless in his arms.  Olga, heavily expecting a third child, had turned pale and now pulled herself up.  She and her sisters followed after Konstantin and left the hall.

“This banquet is over,” Mikhail announced. “I’ll deal with the upstart who insulted me and my mother later.”

“Why are you adjourning our party?” another distant cousin asked. “I’m sorry the child hurt himself, but that’s no reason to put a premature end to the celebration.”