Monday, October 31, 2005

Black Rose Kate: On Halloween and Modern Life

Kate and Karen's collaborative decor.
Before I turn this forum over to my guest (I have already temporarily changed the About Me section of the sidebar at her insistence), I should explain that I am typing this at the kitchen counter.  The roofers came today, and there's a good chance that in their tearing down of all things roofy (the tv antenna is on the ground in the back yard now), they may have somehow messed up the phone jack in my office.  In any case, I was unable to get a dial tone there, no matter how many times I checked the modem cord.  Between that, my guest, and my 106 trick or treaters, all given toys and candy by me or Kate, I've been a little busy.  This chair is not very comfortable, either.  Hmm.  I think I'll go grab my office chair before taking down what Black Rose Katie Specks wishes to say to you tonight.


an unusual Jolly Roger.Marry, but 'tis certain that my hostess has more capacity than cause for complaint!  As I understand it, this flat box, marked with letters and numbers, on which she is pounding away at this moment, is a means of communicating from one end of this old world to the other, very nearly at the speed of thought.  Yes, I do know that though we often speak of "the ends of the earth," in truth there is no end to it, unless it is to go into the sky itself, and seek out the moon and stars.  The rest is all connected - sea and shore, lake and river, mountains and sand.  But in the life I know, charting blue-green courses from one bit of land to another may take weeks or months, sometimes even years.  Posting a message across all that distance and more, to the interior of a country, and putting it in the hands of the intended recipient - this, too, is a lengthy and uncertain process, and often dangerous as well.  I therefore have little sympathy for a woman who sits in a well-lit room, far from danger or any real discomfort, and sends my words spinning gaily through the world, mere moments after I utter them.  I am convinced that Karen has never suffered any real hardship - troubles, yes, as do  we all; but no true privation.

Kate at Karen's front door.
Who am I?  My name - at least, the name by which I am known, from Brazil to the Bering Sea - is Black Rose Katie Specks.  The name exists in several variant forms as well.  Those who focus primarily on my fondness for roses drained of color call me Black Rose Kate.  Those who find it odd that a pirate would be female and bespectacled prefer the name Katie Specks. Some choose to add a title to my name: "the Pirate Scribe," due to my uncommon literacy. Whichever name they call me, however, 'tis all one to me.  My birth name was quite different.  So long as I hear neither that hated moniker nor any insult, ye can call me as ye wish.  (And I shall put you on notice right now that I seldom display more than a hint of the coarse dialect of the common pirate.  No amount of sea spray will e'er wash away my education or my intelligence.)

Despite the best schooling ever afforded a woman of my generation, I must confess I have little idea what magic or science brought me to Karen's house, far from the sea and farther still from my own time.  'Tis my hope that whatever unnatural tide bore me to the Arizona desert in the Year of Our Lord 2005, 'twill soon wash me back where I belong.  In the meantime, however, I have enjoyed marveling at the modern wonders of computers and automobiles, digital cameras and more, at the strange landscape and stranger customs.
Kate is in charge.
Your All Hallow's Eve, for example, is much changed since my day.  You have eroded the words into Halloween, and the fear and awe that suffused the date in times past exists now only in caricature, in fun and games (save for the practices of a few older cultures - or so Karen tells me).  You play at fear, but seldom feel it.  You dress as a ghost or a pirate, a witch or a vampyre, but you know not what is is to be any of these in reality.  Chidren pretend to be angels and princesses, heroes and villains and monsters, primarily for the chance to eat sweets proferred by strangers.  And people like Karen, decades past the age for this "trick or treat" custom, nevertheless plan their costumes with as  much enthusiasm as the most wide-eyed child.  At her place of business today, I saw several green-faced witches and a woman in pyjamas, a living scarecrow, an ersatz vampyre and a pretend pirate, and even a woman dressed as a male ghost in a striped suit, apparently named Beetlejuice.  'Tis odd behavior, to my mind, but these people seem to enjoy it.  Perhaps in your modern world, with its dearth of real adventure and onus against mayhem, you must create such things vicariously.

Karen claims that she is tired of typing this, and begs me to allow her to stop for this night.  And in truth, I am a bit weary myself, after an evening of mutual exploration of our respective lives and times, all in between the giving of toys and candy and pretend coins to the children of strangers.  If I remain in your century another day or more, I shall continue my dictations tomorrow evening.  In the meantime, I remain

That Disobedient Wench,

Black Rose Katie Specks

P.S.  If you have any questions for Black Rose Kate, either about her life as a lady-turned-pirate or about her reactions to the modern world, please post them in comments.  Thanks! - Karen


Kate's story continues:

11/2/05:   Black Rose Kate: On Technology, Fictional Pirates and More

11/2/05:   Black Rose Kate On Love and Death...and Life

11/3/05:   The Clone and the House Guest

11/5/05:   A Pirate Incognito

11/6/05:   Past Exploits and Coming Attractions

11/10/05:   Absent Friends

Sunday, October 30, 2005

There May Or May Not Be a Poem Here Later

I promised you a poem, didn't I? Well, I may or may not deliver before the night is out, but I'm beginning to suspect not. Meanwhile, there are few other things I need to write in this nice white box:

1.  I've researched; I've voted; I'm done!  With two hours to spare!  Can you say squeeeek?  If you have an AOL or AIM account, and if you haven't already done so, you can vote in the VIVIs--but only if you hurry! [No, you can't.  It's over now.]

Remember, Musings from Mâvarin has been nominated for the following:

Fiction...poetry...that stuff.

My series is a serial.

Go!  Vote!  I'll still be here when you get back.  You know me; I'll be up for hours and hours yet.  Of course, most of that time will be spent putting candy and toys in Ziploc bags.

For me, there were only a few unpleasant moments in the whole VIVI voting process.  First there was that attack of insecurity I had the other night.  Thanks, folks, for helping me through it.  Then there were a few less-than-wonderful moments when I was researching certain categories. Either I was annoyed because certain journalers were saying mean things about each other "in good fun" (or for other reasons), or I was torn between two or more excellent choices for that particular award. 

The third and final unpleasantness was when I posted a comment in some stranger's journal, in response to a rather negative entry.  The gist of my comment was, "Yes, I don't comment that much either, but surely things aren't as bad as you seem to think they are."  I got two nasty emails back from this person in rapid succession, with a semi-apology in between.  If this is how that journaler reacts to a well-meaning stranger, I can just imagine the flames that must erupt when more volatile and combative correspondents are involved.  Me, I want no part of that junk.  There are too many nice people in J-Land to waste time and emotions on people who upset me.  And yes, I am still a little upset.  I'll get over it.

2.  Mall of Mâvarin Post Mortem - after 33 weeks, mysecond serial is finally over.  Here's what I've learned from writing it:

a.  It's almost impossible to handle a large cast adequately in a confined setting.  When there are ten or twenty named characters "on stage" at once, it's difficult to remember all of them individually, let alone give each of them a chance to say and so interesting things.  Instead it was almost a matter of holding up lines of dialogue like fish before trained porpoises:  "I've got a line here about The Wizard of Oz!  Who wants it?" Snap!  It's not that big a problem in the books, because usually there aren't that many characters in a given scene. Next time I do a serial, though, I'm going to try for a smaller cast list!

b. Being entirely unable to plot ahead (I almost never know what's gonna happen in a story until it happens) is dangerous in a serial posted week by week. If I had known in the early weeks of writing Mall of that Li would be important to the plot, I would have mentioned him sooner.  Had I known that Ariel Allegra would figure in the resolution, Josh would have mentioned his daughter five months ago.  And so on.  In the novels, I can go back and lay in something that needs to happen in Chapter 3 to justify what happens in Chapter 13.  I can't do that in these serials, so the verisimilitude suffers a bit.

c.  Speaking of verisimilitude, Mall of confirms what I've suspected for years - suspension of disbelief for Mâvarin suffers if there's too much interplay with the "real" world.  Mâvarin isn't Narnia, and opening it up to kids from DeWitt does not keep us grounded in the reality of the world of my characters.  Therefore, Mall of Mâvarin will almost certainly never be considered a "canonical" Mâvarin story.

3.  I have a visitor here.  She's far from her normal climes, and has yet to get her bearings, but she promises to speak to you tomorrow.  Meanwhile, she's going to help me decorate for Halloween.  Now, if we can just affix these rosesto the cloth-covered cardboard, we'll be in ship-shape!


Fiction: Mall of Mâvarin, Part Thirty-Three

Well, I wanted to finish this tonight, and yee-haw!  I've done it!  Finally!  It's long, but that just makes up for the short ones.  Can I have that VIVI Award now? ;) - Karen

The easiest way to catch up on past installments of this serial is on Messages from Mâvarin at However, all links in this entry are to AOL unless otherwise labeled.

Synopses to Parts One through Six can be found at the top of Part Seven. Synopses to Parts Eight through Thirteen can be found at the top of Part Fourteen. Synopses to Parts Fourteen through Eighteen are at the top of Part Nineteen.  Synopses to Parts Nineteen through Twenty-Five can be found at the top of Part Twenty-Six.  The installments themselves can be read in order on Blogspot using the sidebar, or on AOL from the links at the bottom of this entry.

Part Twenty-Six:  Cathma and Cathy wonder why they haven't lost consciousness with everyone else.

Part Twenty-Seven:  Cathy and Cathma belatedly collapse and faint, much as the others did.  They find themselves in a place without physical bodies, surrounded by a thousand versions of themselves.  The only person present who doesn't have their face is Joshua Wander.

Part Twenty-Eight:  Cathma is pretty sure they're in something called the subjective plane.  Joshua Wander is pretty sure he's meant to be their guide.  The other versions of Cathy and Cathma disappear, leaving just the two of them to work out the answer to Josh's question: which one of them will be the one to return home?

Part Twenty-Nine:  Joshua Wander explains that there is an imbalance in magic between the worlds, which can only be solved by someone relocating to the other person's world - permanently.  However, the explanation makes no sense, and Cathy doesn't believe it.

Part Thirty:  Cathy refuses to sacrifice her normal life on the basis of what she's hearing.  Angered by the lack of cooperation, "Joshua Wander" disappears, replaced by Cathma's self-proclaimed "oldest enemy" - Imuselti, former royal mage to a family of usurpers.

Part Thirty-One:  Based on her secondhand memories of who Imuselti is, Cathy realizes that the man in this no-place knows things that the real Imuselti would not know, such as who the Beatles were.  She begins to suspect that of all she sees and hears around her, "nothing is real," and nothing to get hung about.

Part Thirty-Two:  Although the identity of the man making the offer remains in doubt, Cathy becomes convinced that unless she signs a blood oath agreeing to give up any chance of going home, she may never even leave this no-place in which she's trapped.  She signs the oath, but only in exchange for a promise that everyone else "who wants to go home, will go home." Shortly afterward, shefinds herself back in the mall in Mâvarin, surrounded by family, friends and cold pizza.

Part Thirty-Three: Croatoan

Art by SherlockCathy’s reaction to what Cathma had said must have showed on her face, because Carl frowned.  “Thanks for doing what?  What is she talking about, Cath?”

“She’s thanking me for sacrificing my chance to go home, so that other people can get there, and so that I wouldn’t be trapped nowhere at all,” Cathy said, a little bitterly.  She pushed the pizza plate away. 

Carl stared at her.  “You did that, too?”


“I was just in this weird dreamland place, all dark, just me and, well, more of me, and King Carli, and this other guy.  Were you really there with me, Your Majesty?”

King Carli nodded.  “That’s what I remember.  Yes.”

“And I agreed to stay behind, too, just as you say you did.  I even signed something called a blood oath.”

“Okay, so we were both maneuvered into giving up our lives in the real world,” Cathy said.  “But we did it under duress.  Isn’t there a way out of it?”

“Not if you took a blood oath, no,” said Fayubi.  “Violating one of those has lethal consequences.  Fabian and I had a similar experience, but we didn’t agree to anything.”  He looked around.  “Oh, and I’m myself again.  For whatever reason.”

Jamie Barrett nodded.  “Whatever that was, a dream or weird astral plane or something else, it straightened the two of us out, too.  But nothing was said about giving up on going home.  How could you two do that?  I thought I raised you better than that.  What about high school, your friends, your college plans, to say nothing of my feelings in the matter?  What about the rest of your lives?”

“It looked as though I wasn’t going to get a chance to go home, regardless,” Cathy said.  “I thought if I did this, at least you and Carl, Randy, the two teachers and everyone else could go home, even if I couldn’t.”  She turned to Carl. “But no, you had to be all self-sacrificing too,didn’t you?”

“What, am I not allowed to do something heroic, and try to help my family, too?” Carl asked.  “Are you sorry that we’re in this fix together?”

“Well, no,” Cathy admitted.  “I think I’m grateful.”

“So what do we do now?” Jamie asked.

Jami Baret pointed to the other end of the food court, where Lee and Li and Josh Wander had just appeared around a corner, followed by Randy and Rani.  “I think we’re about to find out,” Jami said.

The new arrivals looked around, apparently spotted the twins and their friends, waved, and hurried over.  “I think we’ve got the portal working the way it’s supposed to work,” Li said.

Josh was all smiles.  “It seems to be working great, in fact.  Some of the Americans have gone home already, feeling almost completely like their old selves again. Are you folks ready to go?”

Cathy stood up. She was shaking with anger.  “How dare you even ask me that?  Where do you expect me to go?”

“Why, home to DeWitt, of course.”  The itinerant magician looked around at all the angry faces directed at him.  His smile fell away. “What’s the matter?” he asked.  “What’s happened here?”

Cathy told him.

“Well, that wasn’t I,” Josh told her.  “I suppose it could have been a different Joshua Wander.”

Carli Carl frowned.  “A different one?  How many are there?”

“At least two others that I know about,” said JW.  “One of them is a pretty nasty character, much more insane than I ever was.  He seems to think he can only get home if he can deprive other people of the same opportunity.”  His lips parted. “Oh, my.  I should have thought of this before.  He could have caused this whole mess.”

Li shook his head.  “I really don’t think so.  This was at least mostly my fault.”

“He took advantage of the situation then, at the very least,” Josh said.  “As I told you, he’s insane. He even tried to steal my daughter from me once.  Fortunately, Ariel was too smart to fall for his tricks.”

“You have a daughter?” Cathy asked. “You didn’t mention that before.  Where is she?”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you about her?  I thought I had.  She’s in school, most of the time, but she’s inherited her dad’s tendency to wander the multiverse as well.”

“Where does she go  to school, then?”

“Croatoan College.  It’s a wonderful place, sort of an educational Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, except with fewer puns.” He looked at Cathy and Carl in turn.  “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “you two would probably fit right in there.”

There were a number of discussions that followed Joshua Wander’s idea, an argument or  two over whether Jami or Randy or both would accompany Cathy and Carl into their new life, and more than a few tears when it was decided that both would return to DeWitt instead.  Then it was time for everyone to say their goodbyes.  Large portions of the mall had already vanished, presumably back to DeWitt, by the time Jamie, Randy and the two teachers walked away through the portal’s nexus point and disappeared. 

“You know, despite all the trouble it caused, I like this shopping mall,” Fayubi said. “I’m rather sorry to see it go.”

Cathma chuckled.  “Well, perhaps you and Mera can open your own little outlet mall.  But not tonight.  It’s been a long day, and Carli and I really need to get back to the Palace.  Will we ever see you again, Cathy?”

Cathy shrugged, but Fayubi said, “I’m pretty sure Cathy and Carl will make a return appearance here – but probably not for quite a while.  In my vision, they’re at least ten years older than they are now.”

“Really?  What else can you tell us?” Carl asked eagerly.

Fayubi shook his head.  “Nothing.  What little I’ve seen would not help you now.  But at least you know you will survive your adventures, for the next decade at the very least.”

Art by Sherlock, mostly. This was not exactly encouraging, but Cathma reassured Cathy that Fayubi meant well.  There was one more round of goodbyes, and then the Mâvarinû were gone, leaving behind only Cathy, Carl and Joshua Wander.  Even the last of the mall had disappeared.

“Now what?” Carl said.

“I’ll take you in my castle,” Josh said.  “Ariel will be pleased to meet someone from her dad’s home town—I hope!”

Hand in hand, the twins followed Joshua Wander into the blue castle, now restored to its full size.  Joshua fiddled with what looked like a box of rocks, and said words that sounded like Lopartin, the vaguely Latinesque spell-tongue used in Mâvarin and Mâton.  Cathy was pretty sure she heard the name Ariel mentioned.  This time there was little sensation of movement, but in a few minutes the castle’s front hall was suddenly filled with a pleasant green light.  “Ah!  Here we are,” Josh said happily.  “Are you ready for your new lives?”

“I guess we have to be,” Carl said. He didn’t sound too upset about it, though.

Josh opened the castle’s front door into Technicolor sunshine – and an entirely new adventure.

The End


Welcome to Mâvarin

Messages from Mâvarin (BlogSpot: use sidebar to get to the individual installments).

This serial on AOL:

Part One    Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five  
Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight   Part Nine   Part Ten  
Part Eleven   Part Twelve   Part Thirteen   Part Fourteen  
Part Fifteen   Part Sixteen   Part Seventeen   Part Eighteen 
Part Nineteen  Part Twenty   Part Twenty-One   Part Twenty-Two  
Part Twenty-Three   Part Twenty-Four   Part Twenty-Five   Part Twenty-Six  
Part Twenty-Seven   Part Twenty-Eight  
Part Twenty-Nine   Part Thirty   Part Thirty-One   Part Thirty-Two

Next week:  New Adventure!  Or something.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Trick or Treat Thru J-Land

Okay, here's the drill. 

The idea behind this meme is to go "trick or treating" around the Land, leaving comments and links as treats.  The full explanation can be found here:

Oh My Word


So.  Trick or treat! 

Here's your treat for now: a different view of the Catalinas on a hot October afternoon, as seen from the Costco parking lot. 

The other picture is the stuff I'll be using this year - another clue!

I'm off to face the party supply - turns out we're out of treat bags after all. 

[Later] I managed to avoid the party supply on the Saturday before Halloween - by going to Walgreen's, three times.  Here's what the bin looks like now:

And here's the craft project on my desk!



(Back tonight with Mall of Mâvarin!)

Friday, October 28, 2005

My Weird Response to a Generally Icky Day

Tucson sunset, October 28th, 2005.I'm kind of tired and depressed tonight, and that's not good for de blogging.

It wasn't a bad day, exactly, but it was a frustrating one.  I couldn't quite get anything done at work, because everything was interrupted by everything else.  A little after 3 PM, I was trying to finish the biggest interruption, so that I could take care of two other interruptions, and then get back to the main task of the day.  That's when my phone rang.  The roofer - the one that two people recommended, the one that's had money sitting in escrow from our refi for over a month, the one that never responds to my phone calls, and couldn't give me a time frame more specific than a Monday or Thursday in November - THAT roofer! - called.  They'll be out Monday - Halloween! - to replace our roof.  Great! I thought, until I called John.  He was upset with the extremely short notice.  John reminded me that we were told to get a solar company to remove the solar panel that runs down to our water heater before the roofers arrive.  How could we possibly get that done between 3:30 Friday and 6 AM Monday?  The solar place initially said the same, but they took pity on me and came out late this afternoon. The cost was $250 plus tax, not including the price of reinstalling it afterward.  Great, more money down the figurative drain.  We have not done one thing we wanted to do with the dwindling cash we took from the refi - and John's worried that we'll never get the chance to do anything much.

candy holder.I had hoped to have my big new Halloween poem ready for you tonight. I was even compelled to take a break at work today and email a stanza to myself before I forgot it.  But by the time I looked at my notes after work, the words barely made sense to my tired brain.  Maybe I'll have it for you Sunday.  I just can't work on it tonight.

The nasty, negative part of my brain, the part that seems to be in control tonight, says that it doesn't matter anyway.  I expected to get more readers and more comments from the two VIVI nominations, but since the initial flurry I've been getting fewer comments than I usually get during a normal week. Wah!  Nobody loves me any more!  Entries I was really proud of got one comment each.  I've taken to thinking that posting two entries in a day actually decreases the readership for each, and that most people won't check out the fiction and poetry nominees anyway, because they think they don't like poetry.  With all those categories to vote for, maybe they'll spend their limited time before voting ends looking at the major categories, the fun categories, the "Part One" categories. Maybe I annoyed people by saying that I wasn't going to try to comment in every single nominated journal. Maybe I violated the Unwritten Law of Blogging - whatever that might be! 

Looking north at sunset, October 28th, 2005.Now, I know as well as anyone that this kind of negative thinking is foolish and destructive.  "Remember the lurker factor!" Carly tells me.  People are spread thin right now, sampling as many nominated journals as possible, I tell myself.  Alerts are wonky, so we may be missing each other.  But I still feel rejected and neglected.  Pout.

So what am I going to do about all this - the bad monetary/logistic news and the defeatist head trips, the poem that evades me, sleep deprivation and general depression? 

I'm going to write a few limericks and show you some sunset pictures.  What else?

Gruesome Limericks

by Karen Funk Blocher

swiped clipartA young ghost who haunted New York,
Met this fate being stabbed with a fork.
The fork it was pitch-
And the victim, a witch,
Was accused of inventing the "spork!"

A mystery writer was proud
He with such great ideas was endowed.
'Til his play about murder
Involving a birder
Was restaged by "Kill Willie" O'Dowd!

more swiped clipart.There was a young zombie named Clyde,
Who once gave a black cat a ride.
But the cat it kept clawing,
And Clyde's innards kept falling,
So he'd stop and stuff parts back inside!

Pirates, searching for wealth beyond measure,
Found a map once that promised rare treasure.
But as they were digging,
A fire to their rigging
Was set, for their rivals' great pleasure!

Swiped clipart.Madeleine Millicent Blair
Was a vampire extraordinaire,
'Til she met a young slayer
With a headache (no Bayer),
And ended as dust in her hair.

sunset again.And somewhere in there is another clue to this year's Halloween costume.

The one good thing that happened today was that I left work at exactly the right time to get lots and lots of good sunset pictures.  You know it's a great sunset when the sky is pink with clouds, and there's color in every direction you look.  (The shot of the Catalina Mountains, for example, faces north.)  Enjoy!  And comment, darn yuhs!


P.S. A nice person commented before I even finished fixing the typos in this entry.  Hooray!  I feel better already.  But do say hello anyway, won't you? Thanks!

P.P.S.  Well, I've looked at all the nominated journals in the first ten categories, with more of the same planned for Saturday and Sunday. I already have one category in which I could not narrow it down to one choice, so I'll have to look again later.  Several other categories were really tough also, with two or more journals I'd like to vote for. There really are a lot of great journals out there. I just wish I had time to keep up with them all. [Yawn]  Good night!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Would You Approach This Character on a Dark Night?

Weekend Assignment #83: Tell us a scary Halloween story... that happened to you. What I'm looking for here is a story where you were spooked or scared by someone or... something... in or around Halloween (or, alternately, a story where you spooked the heck out of someone else). Please note I don't want stories in which you or others were genuinely in danger -- I'm talk about you getting one big BOO! moment, which, after you were able to get your heart back into your chest, resulted in you saying something along the lines of "Don't do that!" to whomever was giving you a spook. A fun frightening, in other words.

Extra Credit:
The song "Monster Mash": Fun or lame?

If this journal seems to be turning into all Halloween, all the time, that's only because it pretty much is.  Don't worry; it's temporary.  Heck, this is nothing.  Last year I gave the mostly-oblivious public two weeks of graveyards and coffins, costumes and treats, toys and decor.  This year, we're talking about just over a week, interrupted from time to time with other stuff.

First off, let's dispose of the being "spooked" part of John Scalzi's assignment.  I honestly don't remember ever being particularly scared on Halloween.  Being shy, I probably didn't like to approach a house alone, but since I always went trick-or-treating with one friend of another, that usually wasn't a problem.  We admired the artists' skull and Hamlet record next door, stuck to familiar neighborhoods, skipped the houses that weren't lit, and never got as far as the haunted house at the fork in the road between F-M Road and High Street.  (We often peeked in the windows of this dilapidated, abandoned but still-furnished old house by daylight, but we never broke in or anything.  We were good kids.  At least, I was.)
Not Rani--but kind of similar.
So I have to turn instead to more recent times, with me doing the scaring.  "Not Rani" plays a major role in this little story, so I'd better explain about him.

You probably recognize this picture.  I used it as my sidebar photo for much of 2004, and it's back again this month for Halloween. A different version of it is one of my LiveJournal icons.

This is probably my favorite of my recent Halloween costumes.  I call it "Not Rani" because it's about as close as I can come to impersonating a tengrem, short of modifying a pantomime horse costume or gluing a horn on my head.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, that probably means you haven't been reading Mall of Mâvarin, or browsing  How can you vote for me in the VIVIs if you haven't read any of my fiction, hmm?

Okay, for the sake of expedience, here's the short version. In my first novel, Heirs of MâvarinRani Fost is a 15-year-old apprentice tanner who is suddenly transformed into a monster, and then hunted as his own presumed murderer.  He seeks help from his best friend, who is the Prince of Mâvarin but doesn't know it yet.

A tengrem.  Art by Sherlock.
A tengrem looks like a nightmare combination of several other mythological creatures.  It has four legs, a somewhat bear-like upper torso, a horn on its wolfish head and dragon-like breath, the latter only when it's really angry. That's not important right now.  The point is that this mask looks a lot like a tengrem head (but without the dirty yellow horn), which is why I bought it.

The photo of me in my Not Rani costume dates to October 31st, 2002, six weeks before my mom died.  I remember this because I stopped at her adult care home on my way from Walgreen's, where I'd bought fake black nails as claws.  They didn't work well, and I ended up mostly doing without them. By the time this picture was taken, after the hundred or so trick-or-treaters had been and gone, I'd long since given up on the claws, but the fur was still hanging in here, and the black makeup was still giving my fingers pretty much the effect I wanted. And after all that, I watched a tv special about coffins and cemeteries, even though it made me feel a little creepy.  This was a few weeks after I chose my still-living mom's grave marker style, and designed the text for it.

Would you approach this door to face this creature?I don't get to Halloween parties since the Doctor Who club drifted into oblivion, but I dress up anyway, often for work and always to hand out the treats.  In 2002, the year of Not Rani, I affected a growly voice, but dropped it in a hurry when I noticed that the kids were genuinely scared of me.  The little children wouldn't even approach without a lot of encouragement from me and from their parents or older siblings.  More than once, I pulled off the mask to reassure them.

Okay, little kids are one thing, but what about the older ones?  I did the growly voice thing for kids in their teens, and even they were scared, some of them!  About 9:30 that night, a couple of teenagers got out of a car, started up our driveway, and stopped when they saw me standing there, watching for stragglers and trying to cool off in the night air.

"Hello," one of them called out, a little tentatively.

"Hello!" I growled.

"Are you really a monster?" asked one of the nervous teens.

"No," I said loudly, in a more normal voice.

"Are you going to eat us?"

"Nooo," I said, in the tone one uses when faced with a  really stupid question.

Now, I would have assumed that this was all a joke, just a couple of teenagers from another neighborhood cruising around, mooching for candy and having fun.  I don't think they were even wearing costumes, or else they were in lame "we're too cool and grown-up to do it right" costumes.  But even after all that, these kids - I can't remember whether there were two or three of them - were extremely reluctant to approach me for their bags o' toys and candy.

Karen as Queen Cathma, 2001.
The ghoul's self-portrait, 2004.
Left: The ghoul's self-portrait.

Right: Queen Cathma, later in life. (Why, yes, I am obsessed with my Mâvarin characters.  Why do you ask?)

The next year I bought this ghoul mask at Walgreen's on the night of October 30th, because it was only $8 and I liked it a lot.  Remembering the way the kids had reacted to Not Rani, I dressed in my 2001 Queen Cathma costume for the early arrivals, and switched to the ghoul at about 8 PM.  Normally I like to change costumes every year, but for 2004 I ended up doing the same thing as in 2003, except that I switched to the ghoul a little earlier.  (The reason is a long, uninteresting story, so I'll spare you.) 

And yes, the kids were scared of the ghoul, too.  I can't really blame them!

And this year? Well, if you're playing along at home, you already know that it involves a skull, and that I'll be wearing boots. Your third clue is that it's not a rerun from 2001-2004, but it is a rerun of...something else.

Extra Credit: The song "Monster Mash": Fun or lame?
Hey, I like the Monster Mash.  I like pretty much all Halloween songs, andwish there were more of them.  The one that stick in my had this year is one I learned in elementary school, The Wobblin' Goblin:

The wobblin' goblin with the broken broom
Could never fly too high
'Cause right after take-off,
Another piece would break off,
And soon he would be dangling in the sky....

I've never known where this song came from, whether a teacher wrote it or it was published somewhere.  Other than myself, I haven't heard anyone sing it in about 40 years now.  Maybe I'll Google it tonight, and see if anything turns up.

Tomorrow night:  a Halloween poem - I hope!  How do you feel about AABB rhyme schemes?  Yeah, I hate them, too, but we may be stuck with one this time.


From last year: The Wolf at the Door and Ghoulish Fun

Update: The Wobblin' Goblin was the B-side to a 78 RPM record by Rosemary Clooney in 1950. (Some kind of aircraft also got that nickname.)  The full lyrics to the song can be seen on a rather interesting thread about Halloween songs at

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More Clandestine Photos

[If you're here to check out this journal in connection with the VIVI Awards, welcome!  Fiction and poetry are only part of what I do here.  Feel free to browse,  but if you're in a hurry to find the VIVI-nominated stuff, click here for a handy list of links.  Tonight, though, I'm doing the photo essay thing.]

This is Part Two of my entry in the Round Robin Photo Challenge, subject "Halloween Happenings."  Scroll down if you haven't see Part One yet, because without it you'll be wondering what I'm talking about!

Yes, I snuck in a few more pictures at work today, both in my cubicle and on my way out the door.  Here's a picture of the rubber spiderweb I mentioned last night:

More or less the way it actually looks.

When I opened this photo, there was something about it - the angle, probably - that made me think it was a good candidate for filters and effects.  I don't have Photoshop (not on this computer, anyway), but PhotoStudio 2000, which came free with my scanner, has fun stuff to play with.  Here are the fruits of my "fun!"

high contrast

Crayon, I think.


High contrast.

High contrast and fisheye and cone.

High contrast, followed by fisheye and cone, which almost cancel each other out.  So I went back and did the fisheye again.  I like the way it gave the wall an "eye."

High contrast and Magic Mirror.

High contrast and magic mirror produced this spooky face!

I also took a few more pictures in the break room.  Concentrating on a single element of the display seemed to work out better.

The folky witchy guy.

The folky, witchy guy.

jack-o-lantern with flash

Electric jack-o'-lantern, with flash.

Electric jack-o'-lantern, without flash.

The same electric jack-o'-lantern, without flash.


Boo!Please visit the journals of all of this week's Round Robin Participants:

Alan...F-Stop - POSTED!

Karen...Musings from Mavarin - POSTED x2!

Carly...Ellipsis - POSTED!

Mary...Alphawoman's Blog

Sara...Photographic Memories - POSTED!

Dorn...Through the Eyes of the Beholder - POSTED!


Hoo!Steven...sometimes photoblog - POSTED!

Renee...wwwTimelessCalligraphyStudiocom - POSTED!

Kat...From Every Angle

Robin...These are the days of our lives POSTED EARLY! (x2!)

Tess...First Digital Photos - POSTED!

Gem...Journally Yours - POSTED!

Marie...Photographs & Memories - POSTED!

Maryanne...My feelings are real - POSTED!


Sassy...Sassy'sEYE - ADDED!  POSTED!

Cosette... Pandora's Bazaar - POSTED EARLY (sort of)! Just as well, because she's in Florida without power now.

Corporate Halloween Happenings

What a coincidence!This flyer first appeared in a corridor of Unnamed Largish Company about a day after Carly announced her husband Alan's idea for this week's Round Robin Photo Challenge:  Halloween Happenings!  Spooky, huh? 

At the risk of giving away company secrets, I'm going to admit to you here and now that the company that employs me has Halloween decorations up.  Since I make a point of never naming the firm in my blogs, or mentioning what kind of business it is, or revealing exactly what I do all day at work, I think I can get away with telling you this. 

the balloons in better daysMaybe not, though.  When these balloons arrived in our department a week ago, I waited until nearly everyone had left for the day, and then took some pictures of the balloons. I say nearly everyone, because at the sound of the first photo being taken (my digital camera has a sound effect turned on so I know it took a picture), one of my co-workers popped up to jokingly ask whether I was photographing company secrets.  I said that I was photographing the company balloons. I went on to reveal for the first time that I have "a significant online presence."  My co-worker went home that night, Googled the word "mavarin" and found this blog.  He was disappointed, though, because I hadn't posted any balloon pictures.  Well, here's one of them, D.!

Poor balloon!As you can probably guess, there are definite drawbacks to filling a room with helium balloons nearly two weeks before the holiday you're celebrating.  Within two days, a couple of the black balloons, including mine, were hanging instead of floating.  It was so sad!  I felt as though I had a defective balloon.  By now, of course, all the balloons are like that. At least they were, until people started taping them to the tops of cubicles, as I soon did, or removed them entirely.

Cobwebby fun!It doesn't really matter, though.  The balloons (the orange ones, anyway) still add color to the drab, cubicle-filled room, and the fact that they're "hanging" like that adds a macabre touch.  One side of the room got cobwebs, too, which I like a lot.  We didn't get them on our side, probably because our part of the room isn't visible from the door.  But I brought in my own little rubber spider web, and strung it between my black balloon and my hanging baskets.

The Halloween Happenings flyer is for a different department, I'm sorry to say, but it looks as though we'll have a pot luck anyway.  I'm bringing the apples.  Should I bring caramel for them or leave the appled au naturel?good display. Tough photo.

Meanwhile, I get to enjoy the decorations throughout the building.  My favorite is this display in the break room.  I admire it every day, almost.  It was really hard to get a good picture of it, though, because of the contrast between the lit jack-o'-lantern and the dark figure.  This photo was about the fifth attempt.

I'll be writing more about Halloween at home as we get closer to the day, but don't expect to see "the reveal" of my costume for this year until October 31st.  I've been very busy at home and around town, shopping for Halloween Happenings of a personal nature. I initially put this year's costume together without spending a penny, but I find myself enhancing it with new accessories and additional items of clothing. John has accused me of purchasing "my stylish yet affordable boots" (Quick! What's that quote from?) just for the sake of the costume.  Well, yeah, I will wear them on Halloween. But I fully intend to wear them on other occasions, too.  Like Rodeo Days (a local holiday here).  Or when it rains.  And when it snows here, any year now, I'll be ready!


All photos by KFB

Boo!Please visit the journals of all of this week's Round Robin Participants:


Karen...Musings from Mavarin


Mary...Alphawoman's Blog

Sara...Photographic Memories

Dorn...Through the Eyes of the Beholder


Hoo!Steven...sometimes photoblog


Kat...From Every Angle

Robin...These are the days of our lives POSTED EARLY!

Tess...First Digital Photos

Gem...Journally Yours

Marie...Photographs & Memories

Maryanne...My feelings are real


Sassy...Sassy'sEYE - ADDED!  POSTED!

Cosette... Pandora's Bazaar - POSTED EARLY (sort of)! Just as well, because she's in Florida without power now.

"Plant" your journal in the Journal Graveyard, courtesy of (sometimes) photoblog's Steven

From last year:  Cauldron of Plenty

Monday, October 24, 2005

Today's Lunchtime Confection

I hate the flash effect in her eyes.The title of this journal entry refers to the fact that I wrote this poem today at lunch. Yes, I know I pushed my luck on both the rhyme and the meter in a few places. 

It's tough to get a good picture of Tuffy after sunset, with or without flash, but here are the two best attempts.  With flash, she's got those annoying greenish-white circles in her eyes, which can't really be filled in well.  Without flash, the picture comes out pretty dark.  Brightening the image only does so much, and results in wonky colors. 

Oh, and by the way, Tuffy is standing up in the poem. - Karen

The Mooch

Don't forget the dog!
she begs,
With her anxious doggie eyes.
Her tail's almost behind her legs;
She'll flee from any loud surprise.

She knows exactly where she stands:
Next to her desired reward.
She gazes at my empty hands,
So close to the admired cupboard.

without flash.Her tail waves slowly side to side.
She smiles her anxious doggie smile.
I reach in, give her hopes a ride,
So she'll be happy for awhile.

"A while" is measured by the time
She's taking her small prize away,
Because she fears the doggie crime
Of theft should she just eat and stay.

She chews and swallows, and looks around
For any still-uneaten crumbs;
And when there are none to be found,
Then back to me my Tuffy comes.

More, please! my greedy doggie pleads.
Can't you see I'm starving here?
I sigh, and give her one more treat,
Because she is my doggie dear!

KFB, 10/24/05

I'm running on fumes tonight.  Last night I drove back to the office at 10 PM, and stayed so late that I surprised a night watchman. Then I blogged some more.  Am I insane? When I look at the clock and realize that four hours of sleep is no longer possible, that's beyond the pale, even for me!

Voting for the VIVI awards begins Tuesday morning, so instead of going to bed early I've started to make the rounds of the nominees in categories other than my own.  I've definitely seen some good journals with which I was previously unfamiliar, some of which I'll probably add to my alerts - later, when I'm feeling less overwhelmed.  So far, nothing has displaced one of my faves as the one I'll vote for, but it's early yet.  That may well happen, especially in categories in which I don't have a strong favorite. 

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and posted congratulations, especially those of you who have started reading Meet Joshua Wander.  That means a lot to me.  If I don't post congratulatory comments in every nominated blog myself, I hope you'll all forgive me.  I'm not ignoring you, truly!  I'm happy for us all.  It's just that I really, really need to avoid taking on any more obligations right now, even the "obligation" to comment.  But I will look at every nominated journal, and give it a fair read.


Click here for links to more of my fiction and poetry.