Thursday, November 10, 2005

Absent Friends

I'm missing Kate tonight, and it occurs to me that I haven't yet told you what little I know about her abrupt departure.

Last week, as you may recall, I
expressed concern that if Black Rose Katie Specks didn't somehow make it back to her own time, she would soon be resuming her life of crime, right here in the 21st Century. When I discussed the issue with Kate herself over the weekend, she didn't even bother to deny it. So when I got home on Monday and she wasn't here, my first thought was that she got tired of waiting to be mysteriously returned home, and hitchhiked down to Nogales or Naco to become a smuggler; or else that she'd gotten in trouble trying to rob a bank.

But there was nothing on the news about a bank robbery, or about anyone trying to rob anyone with only a flintlock gun for a weapon, or crossing the border into Mexico in a pirate outfit and with no identification. Furthermore, there was nothing missing from my house, not even the clothes I loaned to Kate. Even the necklace that Kate loaned to me for the VIVI Awards was still here. Had she left on her own, I doubt very much that she would have foregone the chance to steal anything that she might find useful. She was grateful for my hospitality, but not that grateful. All things considered, then, it was starting to look as though my friend the pirate had disappeared the same way she appeared - mysteriously, suddenly and involuntarily.

I hoped that meant that she did return to the late 18th Century, but there didn't seem to be any historical record of her - not online, anyway. Google turned up quite a few results for "pirate Kate," but most of them are either an Internet handle or clearly fictional, including a pirate's daughter in an old novel, a woman who meets a time traveling pirate in a recent novel (!), and one of the daughters in The Pirates of Penzance. Maybe Katie Specks didn't make it home after all, or maybe she did nothing under the name Kate that was noteworthy enough to make the pirate websites.

It wasn't until last night that I noticed a Word file on the desktop of my computer, one I never put there. The file name was "To Karen." Thinking it might be a note of farewell from Black Rose Kate, I opened it up and read:

Karen -

I write this in haste, because, as you might say, "my ride is here," and cannot wait. Her name is Ariel - or so she claims. She is certainly no airy spirit (or mermaid - I did glance through your Disney collection over the weekend). She also claims to be indirectly responsible for my having been beached here in the desert with you. In the final of her three claims, she proposes to take me home. I have decided to put this third claim to the test!

Thank you for your hospitality, patience and friendship.


That Disobedient Wench,

Black Rose Katie Specks


Underneath this, in a different color font, was a second, more surprising note:

Dear Karen:

I found out about your "house guest" earlier today while Googling for evidence of disturbances in time in your version of reality. When I read your journal entries about Black Rose Kate, I realized that I ought to "swing by," as you put it, and get her safely home.

Based on similar recent incidents in this part of the Multiverse, I'm pretty sure that Kate's arrival in Tucson was a side effect of what I've been calling a "leak" in my pandimensional sports car. I think you'll agree that a sports car is a much more practical way of traveling than my dad's castle is--if I can get it working properly. I know that you know about Toujours Chez Moi, because I saw it mentioned in your story Mall of Mâvarin. Cathy and Carl are fine, by the way. Your imagination seems to be pretty closely tied in with worlds my dad and I move through on a regular basis. Intriguing! Kate is not from your reality, any more than I am, so in a way you were right to make the contradictory claims that she was both fictional and real.

I'd love to stay and say hello in person, but I have a test in the morning. I'd better get Kate back to her bit of space-time, and then go study. The test is on A Wrinkle in Time, and I haven't finished reading the book yet!

Your Imaginary Friend (LOL!),

Ariel Allegra
(Joshua Wander's daughter)

I don't know why I'm so shocked about this. After all,
Joshua Wander himself once bought tickets at Worldwide Travel while I worked there. Why shouldn't his daughter borrow my laptop for a few minutes?

By the way, I also found my notebook, the one in which Black Rose Kate wrote a brief version of her life story. I'll share that with you another time, but for now I'll tell you this much: she was not born with the name Kate or Katherine, or anything like that.

Fair weather and safe harbor, Kate!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Kate Weighs In; Coming Attractions

Cross-posted from two different AOL entries:

1. I Won a Major Award - and it's not a leg lamp!

First of all, in case anyone reads this blog and not Musings (which seems unlikely):

I won iwoniwon! And so did Vince. Yay!



Musings from Mâvarin - mavarin

2. Kate Weighs In

"I saw what you wrote about me on Friday," Black Rose Kate tells me.

"I thought you might," I acknowledge. "Do you object to anything I said?"

"Nay, your suppositions were quite astute. 'Tis certain that if I'm here much longer, we will have a parting of the ways. You're too honest by half to tolerate me for long. You do not approve of my larcenous heart, and the bindings of your conventional morality chafe me exceedingly."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I tell her. "What did you think about my award last night?"

"Congratulations, I'm sure, but 'tis of no moment to me. You may tell people I'm fictional, but I know better."

"I only said that in a few emails."

"And in your LiveJournal, and in IMs to your friends. Do not lie to me, Karen. You have not the skill for it."

"Oh, that, yes. Are you insulted?"

"Nay, but do not expect me to be wholehearted in approval, either."


It seems that I'm apologizing her her a lot these days. Why is it never the other way around?

3. The Real Deal

After checking with a certain well-known science fiction writer on the advisability of posting a piece of something I'm actually trying to sell, I've decided that starting next week, my Saturday Night Fiction entry will feature the good stuff: the first two chapters of Heirs of Mâvarin in serial form. This is your chance to find out what I've been talking about all this time. For the rest of the story, well, you'll just have to wait until I find a publisher for the darn thing! The idea here is to free my schedule up a bit, so that I can finally finish the last edit of the first book and start sending it around again.

Aside from five queries to agents three years ago, I haven't submitted Heirs to anyone over over a decade. It was a very different manuscript then, not anywhere near as good as it is now.

The market has changed in the intervening years, too. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have all made inroads in popular culture. On the other hand, I'm not in that league, and the publishing industry has been consolidated down to a handful of companies with dozens of imprints each. Tough market - and yes, I'm nervous about sending my life's work out again, possibly to be ignored and rejected. It's all very well to tell me how many times L'Engle and King had their most important books turned down by dozens of publishers, but what if there are only five publishers left that take unagented fantasy, and I've tried all five? What then?


Update: Monday, 11/7/05: Black Rose Kate is gone. More later.

Another Letter from Jamek

For those of you who are just joining us, this is one of a series of first-person accounts ostensibly written by characters from my Mâvarin novels. Tonight's entry is a sort of prequel to Heirs of Mâvarin. The events Jami Baret refers to here happen about fifteen years before the beginning of Heirs. For more information on the books and the characters, please visit - Karen

The following is the message that the twins' "Uncle Jamek" sends to his sister after the kidnapping of King Jor.

Sabedu, 15th Day of Fredor, 881 MMY

The Royal Seal of MavarinDear Ameth,

I don't know what's likely to reach you first - the news that King Jor has been kidnapped, or this letter. I'm with Jord now, and the news just reached here this morning. I myself arrived yesterday. You're a lot farther away, so it could be months before you know what's been happening up in Thâlemar.

This letter will have to be cryptic, for reasons I can't really explain now. But I'm fine, and Jord is fine. And oh, yes, the twins are fine. You remember Roji, don't you? Well, his children will be staying with me now. That was their father's idea, not mine, but I'm glad to do it, for his sake and theirs. Unless things go unexpectedly well, they'll be with me for many years to come.

Terrible things happened at the Palace five days ago, but they could have been much worse. King Jor somehow knew that trouble was coming, although I never did manage to get him to tell me exactly what it was that worried him. You know how he's been, especially since Queen Genva died, always so woebegone and vague about things. All I can tell you for now is that there was definitely a plot in the Palace to kidnap him. This wasn't just tengremen or mages, whatever the rumors may say. At least one of the King's ministers was involved, I'm sure of it. There's nothing I can do about that, though, except what I did.

The way things are going, with the Palace intrigues and the kidnappings and my new parental responsibilities, it's best that I disappear. The fact that I'm King Jor's loyal friend makes me a target, and the children are at risk also. So I'm relocating here, and I have a new name. When you write to me, write to "Jamek Barst." The children will be called Del and Crel Merden.

I know that it would be a hardship for you to travel all the way north, especially this time of year. If you do come, though, I'll be able to explain everything properly. If not, please at least send me a note so that I know you received this letter.

May the blessings of Mâshela and Thâle be yours.



Use the sidebar to get to individual installments of past fiction.

Related entries:

A Letter from Uncle Jamek

A Letter from Fayubi to Harisi

From the Memoirs of King Jor

A Letter from Rithe Fost

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Pirate Incognito

Black Rose Katie Specks is getting restless.

Much as I like my piratical house guest, I fervently hope that whatever deus ex machina brought her to my doorstep last week will swing by soon to take her home. I'm convinced that if she's here much longer, she'll return to her life of crime - 21st Century style. At the rate she's been learning to use my computer, I can see her getting into the identity theft racket before the year is out, just in time for Christmas. Or she might relocate to Nogales or Douglas, and smuggle drugs or people or both across the border from Mexico. Even armed robbery wouldn't be beyond her, once she upgrades from her flintlock pistol to something semi-automatic. She might opt for the relatively easy money and better odds of the border and tech crimes, but, well, I'm not sure. It probably depends on how bored she gets.

In any case, I don't want to be around when she starts getting in trouble with the law here in Arizona. I already had to do some fast talking at LensCrafters the day she got her new glasses. It wasn't enough that I spent $214.87 on her anachronistic glasses; she had to get light-fingered on me, too. I managed to convince them that she simply "forgot" to put the sunglasses back, but I may have to shop elsewhere from now on. Incidentally, Becky, Kate deliberately chose glasses that were as different as possible from the spectacles she was used to. In fact, she went for ones that looked a lot like mine! When I asked her why, she explained that the old wire rims were inadequate to her lifestyle, and that she wanted to take advantage of our modern technology. "I cannot tell you how many glass lenses have popped out of my spectacles during a fight or a storm, and landed in the sea," she said.

Other than Halloween at the office and a few other shopping expeditions, Kate has mostly stayed in my house while she's been here - or so she claims. I'm fairly certain she sneaks out, though. I've seen food around here that I didn't buy, and that John probably didn't buy, either.

I've done my best to distract Kate with tv and computers, but it's clear that my DVD collection won't keep her cooped up and entertained much longer. Kate said when I got home tonight that she can't sit on our old orange couch for another day of watching video - not even for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, her favorite.

So I took her to the gym with me tonight. That was interesting. I left Kate upstairs on the treadmill while I went downstairs to meet with my trainer. As it turned out, though my trainer wasn't even there! He'd gone out of town (again), and hadn't given me a head's up. So instead I showed Kate some of the machines downstairs. She wasn't kidding about being in better shape than I am. She uses a lot more weight on both the upper and lower body exercises. I didn't get much work in myself - I was too busy watching her!

After that we went to Wing Factory, where she ordered the three-alarm wings. I got barbeque ones as usual for myself, and garlic parmesian for John. While we were waiting, Kate trounced me on the Hook pinball game, even though she'd never played it before. Figures! It is a pirate game after all, and I'm no Peter Pan.

leaving her identity at home.

Tomorrow I plan to take her up Mount Lemmon, so she can get the heck out of the house and into nature, and I can keep an eye on her. Kate agreed to leave her hat and pistol home, and go incognito, in more of my borrowed clothes. I would consider this is major concession if I didn't think she was doing it for her own purposes rather than mine. She's probably trying to blend in enough to learn what she can without arousing suspicion. As for the weapon issue, well, I strongly suspect that she's already gotten her hands on a knife at least, or possibly a handgun.

Meanwhile, Kate has gotten some work done on the story of her life, writing in longhand in one of my newer Mâvarin notebooks. It would be nice if I could get her interested in writing for a living instead of crime, but that's not going to happen. "You've been writing for thirty years, and you still don't make a living at it," she told me today in that forthright way of hers. "What chance have I of doing so? Better to stick to what I know."

And that's the problem, isn't it? For all of her charm and eloquence and candor, Kate is still a criminal at heart. Whether she dresses like one or not, she'll always be a pirate.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Clone and the House Guest

cross-posted from AOL (as usual):

Weekend Assignment #84: Take a look at the picture below. Tell us what you think is going on in the picture. You can write as long as you want, or as short as you like -- even a photo caption works. Now, it's a fairly weird picture, but I thought that would just give you more to work with. Ready? Here you go:

not my fault!

John Scalzi is finally forced to admit it was a bad idea to crib
his cloning experiment from a Treehouse of Horror episode of
The Simpsons

Extra Credit: Would you like to see more "explain what's going on in the picture" sort of assignments?

No. Not as such. There's not enough material here for writing one of my patented long entries. Yet somehow I'll manage anyway, especially with my nosy house guest asking questions!

Kate is not amused."Tell me again who John Scalzi is," Black Rose Kate orders.

"He's AOL's designated, professional blogger," I tell her. "He's there to encourage and inspire people to post in their AOL Journals, give tips on how it's done, point the way to interesting or amusing stuff online, and generally entertain us."

"Then by what authority can he assign you to do anything?"

"Oh, it's completely voluntary. But it gives me something to write about that I might not have thought of otherwise."

"Is this something you wanted to write about, now that he's thought of it for you?" she asks pointedly.

"Not really, but I'm proud of the caption I came up with for it."

"I do not understand it. What is a clone?"

"A clone is an exact copy of a person, like a twin, but made by science instead of nature. It's been done with a sheep and other animals. Nobody's ever really cloned a human being yet, as far as we know, and a lot of people say we shouldn't even try it."

"But the monster on the left isn't an exact copy," Kate points out.

I decide not to mention that "monster" would not be a politically correct term for a "cloned American," even a wonky-looking one like Scalzi's. "That's because the premise of the photo is that the cloning experiment didn't quite work out," I explain. "It's supposed to be a joke."

"Well, I fail to see the humour in it," says Kate. "What does your caption mean, about The Simpsons? You have DVDs with that name on them. Are there clones in The Simpsons?"

"Not that I recall," I admit. "But the fake clone in the picture looks a little like the drawings of Homer Simpson in the tv show."

"There are drawings in the tv show?"

"It's nothing but drawings. You can watch some of the DVDs tomorrow if you like."

"And the treehouse of horror? What, pray tell, is that?"

"It's a series of Halloween episodes of The Simpsons, in which horrible things happen. If a cloning experiment went wrong on The Simpsons, it would probably be in a Treehouse of Horror episode."

Black Rose Kate shakes her head. "I think I have done very well so far in understanding your century; but this explanation remains unclear to me."

"It's not important," I tell her. "Nothing kills a joke faster than trying to explain it."

Kate nods thoughtfully. Then she hits me with a question that I should have expected but didn't. "Am I a clone?"

I look at her. There is no denying that Katie Specks looks enough like me that she could indeed be my clone. It is also true that she still doesn't know how she got here. I can't blame her for wondering whether she might not be who she thinks she is.

"You're not a clone," I tell her.

'Karen"Am I a twin?"

"Not of me, you aren't. Perhaps we're related."

"Aye, perhaps. Were your ancesters from England or Ireland?"

"Some of them. I used to jokingly refer to the Irish ones as Viking Irish royalty, the ones who got tired of returning north and became landed gentry instead."

"Aye, I come from the same hardy stock," says Kate. "Mayhap we are relatives. But stay, I have one more question for ye."

"What's that?"

"Am I fictional? You told people that I was a fictional character."

Uh-oh. "How do you know about that?"

"I read the emails you sent to Paul and Gem."

Poor Kate! I'll have to approach my explanation delicately.

"I didn't think you would learn to use my computer so quickly," I admit.

Kate is amused."I find your keyboard difficult to operate, especially the keys with the letters missing. But even I can point and click with the mouse. What is your explanation, Karen?"

"What would you have me tell everyone, Kate? If I post the truth, that you're really here but we don't know why or how, people will either assume that I'm lying, or that I'm crazy, or that I'm telling a story. As a fiction writer, I'd rather they think I'm writing fiction than that I'm lying or crazy."

"You think people will not believe the plain truth?"

"That's right. People just don't turn up from centuries past, alive and well and asking questions."

Kate chuckles. "Fair enough. All right, then. We can pretend that you're spinning a yarn, an it helps you preserve your reputation."

"Thank you."

"But you should have asked me, Karen."

I nod. "Yes. Sorry."

"Aye, well, 'tis unimportant now. Tell me more about The Simpsons. Do these drawings you mention move, like the images in Buffy?"

I think I'll spare you the rest of that conversation.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Black Rose Kate On Love and Death...and Life

Kate poses with a rose.
Black Rose Kate has several questions to answer tonight, so we'll get right to them:

Dear Black Rose Kate...
In all your years as a pirate, what would you say was your most challenging interaction? Was it with fellow pirates? With the sea itself? Inquiring minds want to know! :)

Always, The Mermaid Ondine
Comment from ondinemonet - 11/1/05 1:42 PM

Aye, I remember this question from yester eve, but I lack enough time to tell the whole tale tonight as I had planned. I shall instead give you my plain, honest answer, and write the story behind it tomorrow for Karen to transcribe at her leisure.

'Tis certain that it takes years to learn the sea's many moods, from unnatural calm to full hurricane, and everything in between. Aye, I've seen the sea at her worst, and at her best. Luck and good seamanship - with an able captain to give the orders - have helped me survive many a storm that sent other ships to Davy Jones with all hands. Yet none of the captains under whom I've served can truly claim to be the sea's master. We do the best we can, and we survive or we don't. 'Tis dangerous, true, but not difficult.

No, 'tis the human animal that outdoes storm, sea or shark in challenging interactions. One can develop a weather eye, and predict the future seas with fair accuracy. Sharks are even more predictable, which makes them easy to deal with in most situtations. Ah, but people! The most genteel face may hide a black heart, and even the scurviest pirate may do you a good turn for no reason, an it suits him to do so. There be questions of class, of manners, of drink, of desperation, even of sanity, that help to sway a person to do or say this or that; but when you deal with any man, woman or child, one on one, ye can do no more than guess at possible reactions, and try to be prepared for all of them.

Kate can take care of herself.
I was not prepared for my father's death, nor to be confined and ignored by his heir, my elder brother. Aye, that was a challenging interaction, true enow; and I failed the challenge. So I left, slipping down my knotted sheets like Juliet without a Romeo. That led to the next challenge: finding a ship that would take me. I was well known down at the docks in those days, but as my father's daughter, traveling short distances on business, not as a sailor in my own right. None of the captains wished to cross my brother, and none took seriously my desire to go to sea, and do the same work as any other crew member. In the end I had to disguise myself as a man, until we were well away from England and I had proved "Pete" to be a valuable part of Captain Bose's staff. Sometimes, the only way to survive a challenging interaction is to cheat! It was not until my third voyage that I was able to go to sea as Kate instead of Pete - and even then, I had to be good with gun and dagger and a closed fist to be sure of keeping the respect of randy crewmates! Aye, I proved myself, but it took a long time - years, in fact.

Well, Katie, m'girl, welcome and well met. A boon, now that you've spent more than a few minutes in this time and that place. What can you tell us of death and what may come after, having "lived it" and all.

Fair winds, and blue skies,

Windlass Wil Stormunddrang
Comment from hewasolddog299 - 11/2/05 1:30 AM

Kate and her pistol
You seem to be under the impression that I am dead, or, at the least, that I was dead at one time. 'Tis natural enough that you would think so, given that I was born just over 250 years ago. I suppose it is even technically true. Somewhere, my bones have been moldering for well over a century. 'Tis a grave thought!

But I haven't died yet. I fully intend to get home to my own time, and live out the rest of my "nasty, brutish, and short" life. I have no real hope of living into my dotage, unless I manage to retire to some island, rich and anonymous; but I have never taken a bullet or a knife wound where it really mattered, never had a fever from which I did not recover, and my neck has never felt the noose.

No, what I know of death comes from handing it out to others. I am not especially proud of this, nor especially ashamed. If it is any consolation to you, I have only shot or stabbed someone in "kill or be killed" situations. To the best of my knowledge, none of the dozen men and one woman I dispatched ever returned as ghosts. Life after death? I guess I won't know the truth of it until I get there.

Dear Black Rose Kate:

We all (all four of us) want to know how a bold pirate of a woman like you approaches romance. I would imagine a woman in your position would have a hard time getting a man of high regards to notice you lest you be takin' his gold or his horse (or both).

I also want to say that you are an inspiration to all of us 21st century pirate maidens.

I lift my glass to ye!
Invisible Jess of Skull and Cross Bone Local 1220 GA Chapter
Comment from aurielalata - 11/2/05 2:16 PM


Dear Black Rose Kate,
Have you ever been in love pray tell?
And what do you think of the wenches of October 2005 Year of our Lord that you have seen on Karen's various gizmos? Think they that they are too forthright amongst the menfolk or must they become bolder in their charms to dazzle a lover's fancy?
Thank-you for taking the time to answer me!
Comment from globetrotter2u - 11/2/05 5:38 PM

Kate is no role model when it comes to love.
Hmm. Yes, I have been in love - and yes, it is difficult. But surely this is true of everyone, is it not?

Relationships between lady pirates and their male counterparts tend to be a matter of convenience rather than romance. Trust is always an issue, but occasionally love blooms even in the rockiest gardens.

I have never loved a pirate.

There was a man once who was not a pirate. I met him when I was thirty years old, and he was forty. I was recuperating in the Bahamas from a fever, and toying with the idea of giving up the sea. He was in Nassau on the King's business. We met. I pursued him, aye, and boldly as it happens. We loved. I gave him a daughter.

It ended badly.

I went back to the sea.

As you may readily deduce, I am no role model for true love and hearts won. Any advice I may give on the subject is therefore suspect.

Are you modern ladies too bold, or not bold enough? You ask me this, and I hardly have the wit to answer. In Karen's video collection, lovers are together as the story ends, save for Buffy and Angel. A happy ending is a more satisfactory result than in, let us say, Romeo and Juliet, especially for the lovers involved; but hardly different from As You Like It and other comedies. Shall I judge your modern romances by Buffy, by When Harry Met Sally, by You've Got Mail? Nay, for those are mere fiction. If ye men and women who live in the real world this century have your husbands, your wives, your lovers, and if you are happy in their embrace, then that is answer enough.

I do think that yours is a timid century, though, for all its bloodshed. You send your sons and daughters to fight, and do not quite know why; but you are not forthright in your dealings with others, day to day and face to face. It has nothing to do with relationships between the sexes. Men and women alike are guilty of keeping quiet in public, wearing your masks of meek politeness, never speaking your minds when you see folly or injustice. Then you gone home and blog about it. Well, 'tis better than not speaking out at all!

That Disobedient Wench,

Black Rose Katie Specks

Black Rose Kate: On Technology, Fictional Pirates and More

Kate's digital self-portrait.All things being equal, it seemed best to leave Black Rose Katie Specks back at the house today while I went in to work as usual. Yesterday, people in the building accepted her as just another employee in costume, but that would not have worked on the first of November. So Kate stayed home and watched some of my DVDs - Pirates of the Caribbean, of course, and I think about two discs' worth of Buffy Season One. Afterward, I asked her about her day.

Karen: So, what did you think of the video?

Kate: I think I like that best of all the wonders you've shown me, except for the digital camera.

Karen: Why do you prefer the camera?

Kate: 'Tis participatory. With a camera like that to point at sea and land, at ship and shipmates, I could produce as many pictures in a single day as a painter could produce in a lifetime. I'll warrant that my sea pictures could best your Disneyland ones, by anyone's reckoning.

Karen: That would not be hard, considering that many of the photos from our last Disneyland trip were dismal failures. But Kate, if you took a digital camera back to the late 18th Century, it would do you no good. The flash memory would fill up, the battery would wear down, and you would have no way to print or view the photos.

Kate: So you admit that your modern devices have limitations.

Karen: Of course they have limitations. They're great, but they're designed to work together. You need all the related technologies, not just the one invention.

Kate: Aye, I've noticed how dependent you are on your vaunted technology. You live but a few miles from your workplace, and yet you drive as close to it as you can before using your feet. You own a stove that produces flame with the turn of a wrist, and yet you use your microwave oven, or eat food cold from the refrigerator. You have thousands of books, and yet you do nearly all of your reading on that computer of yours. You live within a few miles of a theater, and yet you watch DVDs.

Karen: What theater do I live close to?

Kate: The Gaslight Theater. I do like that name. I saw the place when you purchased that terrible red Jolly Roger.

Karen: The Gaslight Theater is a very different medium than tv and movies on DVD. They don't exactly play Shakespeare there. They do silly musicals, parodies, mostly.

Kate: Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn't Shakespeare, either. And yet it takes as much time as the longest of plays. I imagine that you sit all day and watch episode after episode. Small wonder you've developed such girth.

Karen: That's hardly a fair thing to say. You're as fat as I am.

Kate: Aye, but I'm fitter. 'Tis no sin for a pirate to be fat, so long as she can wield a weapon and climb the mast and handle sails and rudder in rough seas. For us, girth is a sign of wealth. Most successful pirates look more like Barbossa than Jack Sparrow.

Karen: We'll get to Pirates of the Caribbean in a moment. I'm wondering what you thought of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Did you like it?

Kate: Aye, I did. In some ways it seemed very natural, more true to your world than The Merchant of Venice is to mine. I liked that the heroine did not need a man to rescue her, and that the villains were often funny and eloquent. I've never heard of a vampire turning to dust, however.

Karen: That's because Joss Whedon made them do that for the convenience of the writers. Do you believe in vampires?

Kate: My inclination is to say no. Old maps may say "Here be Monsters," but in my experience there are no monsters. When you reach that spot on the map it's just more ocean, more land, more people--and perhaps an elephant or a tyger. I've never seen a vampire or a zombie, or a mummy that walked.

Karen: What did you think of Pirates of the Caribbean? Was that realistic?

Kate's skull and roses motif
(laughs): Some of it was true to life, certainly more so than that Pirates of the Caribbean CD from Disneyland that you played for three hours on All Hallow's Eve. Those Disneyland pirates are almost entirely harmless. Even your movie pirates are less dangerous than most of the freebooters I know. I liked Jack Sparrow very much, but he was more wily and better looking than the captains I've met. That curse was very interesting, and in keeping with tales told around a fire. 'Twould never happen in real life, however.

Karen: Of course not. Speaking of pirates who aren't harmless, Carly has a question for you--

Kate: Yes, I saw her question. I must say that I'm less impressed with your World Wide Web than I was last night.

Karen: Why is that?

Kate: If the whole world saw my words, then why did no one but Carly ask me a question? By your own admission, she lives less than a thousand miles from this spot. There should be questions from England and Australia and Africa.

Karen: I said that the words could be read anywhere in the world, by anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. I did not say that everyone with the means of reading my blog actually does it. Most people have never even heard of me or my blogs. And not all who do read them leave comments behind.

Kate: You've misrepresented yourself, then, or at least your blog. How many actual readers do you have for Musings? Four?

Karen: Dozens, at least. Can we get to Carly's question?

Kate: Aye.

Kate at Karen's house.  Photo by JBlocher.
Dear Black Rose Kate...

In all your years as a pirate, what would you say was your most challenging interaction? Was it with fellow pirates? With the sea itself? Inquiring minds want to know! :)

Always, The Mermaid Ondine
Comment from ondinemonet - 11/1/05 1:42 PM

Kate: What is the meaning of the colon and parenthesis?

Karen: It's a smile. Look at it sideways.

Kate: Aye. I see. Well, Carly, your question seems to me a very modern one. In my time, we do not think in terms of interactions. We judge the likelihood of attaining the prize without a fight, the strengths and weaknesses of friends and foes, and what tactics will bring us the victory.

Yet as I look at your question again, I realise that you are asking for an especially troublesome difficulty in my own life. To answer that, I think I need to tell the story of how I went to sea, and how I had to work to be taken seriously by seafaring men.

Karen: Do you want to tell that story tonight?

Kate: Nay! 'Tis likely to be longer than this entire conversation you've been typing, and I happen to know that you're two days behind on updating your church's schedule page. Tell Carly that she'll have her answer tomorrow night.

Karen: Why not tell her yourself?

Kate: Aye, I'll just do that. Carly, ye have my solemn word that tomorrow, assuming I am still in this city and century, I will tell you of a difficult interaction from the time I first went to sea. Meanwhile, I bid thee good night!

Good night from me too, folks! Remember, you still have time to get in a question to Black Rose Kate. Heck, she may even answer it! - Karen

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Black Rose Kate: On Halloween and Modern Life

(Originally posted elsewhere on Halloween night)

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 proffered 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