Sunday, October 28, 2018

One Book Out, One in Waiting; One in Revision, Two in the Wings

Beyond Tucson: Adventures in the Multiverse

Hi, remember me? Remember this blog? I't's been a long time. Let's get caught up, shall we?

In late September, 2017, I was offered a contract with MuseItUp Publishing for publication of my first fantasy trilogy, Heirs of Mâvarin. I signed the contract on October 2, 2017. There have been delays since then, but the first book in the trilogy, The Tengrem Sword, should be out in early 2019. Yay!

It won't be my first book publication, however. In early October, 2018, my writing group, Tucson Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, published its first anthology. Beyond Tucson: Adventures in the Multiverse is a truly collaborative effort. Edited by CA Morgan and myself and published under the Toughnut Press imprint, it features stories and poems by 14 of our members, along with artwork, a foreword and an afterward. I have two novelettes in it. "The Jace Letters" was previously published in my fiction blog and is newly revised. "The Boy Who Saw" is brand new, a prequel to The Tengrem Sword that takes place forty years earlier.

Here's the book trailer I made for the anthology:

Meanwhile, I've been slogging away at the second trilogy, Mages of Mâvarin. It's more ambitious than Heirs, and is potentially an even better story. But boy, it's a lot of work!

Once The Tengrem Sword comes out, I will probably be posting on these two blogs again (this and the fiction blog), at least occasionally. I'm much more active on Facebook, however. Follow my progress on my Facebook author page, and of course on


Monday, March 12, 2018

An Imperfect Wrinkle

This is a reposting of a comment I wrote to John Scalzi's review of A Wrinkle in Time on Whatever
Billboard at Disney's California Adventure, Feb. 2018
On my birthday on Saturday, I sat in a darkened theater and tried to love director Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, while my close friend Kevin sat crying, quietly, beside me. It’s my favorite book, and I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be very faithful to the text. That’s okay, I told myself. The film Mary Poppins is not even moderately faithful to the books, and it’s a great movie. I wanted that for the film adaptation of Wrinkle: different, but great on its own terms.
I don’t feel that it quite got there.
The casting is mostly excellent (I would not have gone with that actor for Charles Wallace, but the other Murrys are great), the effects are terrific, and the addition of the “mean girl” subplot really works for me. I can cope with the loss of the twins, the gender change for the Happy Medium, and the complete reimagining of the Mrs Ws. Let’s just say it’s an alternate universe version of these people and events, and that’s okay. The visualization of IT is a big improvement over the brain-in-a-jar trope. And I liked that Meg is the one who drags them to Camazotz.
Outside the film's preview at DCA, February 2018
What doesn’t work for me is the complete deletion (X-ing, in A Wind in the Door parlance) of everything that ever got A Wrinkle in Time banned in book form. Nobody would ever mistake Oprah et al. for witches, or identify this Medium with a crystal ball-wielding fortune teller. Not one mention of Christianity or Jesus gets through, or even God in general, unless I missed something. That strikes me as missing a large chunk of the heart of the book, and perhaps a bit of cowardice on the part of the part of the filmmakers. Perhaps that’s a part of the story they don’t want to tell for personal philosophical reasons, but I notice that the same thing happened with the tv movie over a decade ago, with one of the same producers (Catherine Hand). I suppose different people get different things out of the same work, but this is a major thematic change.
In story terms, I think it was a mistake to skip the whole interlude on Aunt Beast’s planet. We lose much of Meg’s struggle to realize that her father isn’t perfect and can’t fix everything for her, and to throw off the negativity that invades her heart. It’s also impossible to see (at least for me, on one viewing), where Alex Murry and Calvin went, exactly, and when and how. Dr. Murry tried to tesser, but was Calvin even in the shot? Also, making Charles Wallace an adoptee lessens the power of this family producing a biological “sport” who is “different” and “new.” And making the suburban subdivision melt away as an illusion implies that there aren’t real people suffering the hell of authoritarianism
Still, there’s a lot to like here. I did come close to tears twice, and I will go see it again. You should probably go see it, too.

But I can’t help being a little disappointed.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Frank Funk Vs. the Nazis

 A picture someone posted of Allies storming the beaches of Normandy tonight reminded me of my own dad's World War II experiences. He didn't talk about it much, but he spent time in a German POW camp, and saw the actual, historical Nazis close up.

(Any typos or mispelling are from the quoted source.)

Frank Funk: As a World War II combat vet, I decided I would go [to a class on World War II]. And what was interesting to me is that while I had experiences during World War II, but I had a narrow view of a war, because of my own experiences., flying out of Italy in a B17 bomber as a navigator. But Wilbur's course gave me more of a global sense of that total war, including the Pacific as well as European war and all that.

I flew out of Foggia, which is north of Naples, as I say, in a B17 bomber. After three missions, I think, our plane went down in Czechoslovakia. We were captured by the old guard and taken to prison.
They took us to an interrogation camp where they tried to squeeze what they can out of you. It was an interesting experience, because they understand, if you get isolated and nobody talks to you, then you can play the good cop, bad cop. Bad cop suggests you might leave feet first. And good cop says, "For you, da var is over. Ve is flyers together. Ve understand these things, und have a zigaretten." And I said, "No thank you." 

So an interrogation camp, and then to an officers' camp. See, under the Geneva Convention, officers were not supposed to have to work, whereas enlisted me had to be in work camps. And so I was in Stalag Luft I north, about 60 miles from Sweden, north of Berlin, for seven months I think, seven or eight month. We eventually were liberated by the Russians, believe it or not, and they were very unhappy with us, because our high command had decided that the would keep us locked in, because if they let us scurry around the countryside, people would get in trouble, easily. We were half starved, and if you overate, you could actually die from acute gastritis and stuff. 

Anyway, I'm coming up to my favorite World War II story. So we were finally, after drinking vodka with the Russian high command and radioing frantically to France, we were flown out from a nearby airport to Marseilles in France. So here we are, ex Krieg Gefangeners, was the German name. Krieg for war, war prisoners, on a chow line, watching German POWs go through the line with their trays piled high with food, and we'd eaten sawdust bread and scooped maggots of the top of stew and so on. So that was not a very good thing for us to see, but we had tried to understand. And there was a commotion at the end of the chow line. You could tell from retinue that somebody important was coming along. By gum, it was Ike Eisenhower.

Yeah, we were in Marseilles, on a chow line, ready to be shipped out. And usually, by boat, which gave them a chance to fatten us up on the way over to the States. Anyway, the story goes like this. We noticed this commotion, and here comes Ike Eisenhower and a whole retinue of people with him. And he stopped and it sounds like I'm making this up, but I swear, I'm not. He stopped the guy next to me and he said, "Where are you from, son?" 
And the guy said, "Kansas, sir." 

"Oh, the hell you are. You know, I'm from Kansas too," and they both laughed. And he says, "Got a question to ask you," says Ike. "Would you rather go home quickly, or in style?" 

And this kid, without missing a beat, said, "Both, sir." And he laughed and moved on. And that's a wonderful memory of a world renowned figure and humanizing. And he was that way with the troops, and it was genuine. You know, it wasn't phony. "Oh, the hell you are. I'm from Kansas." You know, it was like-- it made him very human and special. That's my World War II story.

We had a quick home visit and then went to a convalescent hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. And they had ex prisoners of war go there. They thought that we might have post traumatic stress syndrome. And so they gave us what is called truth serum, to have us talk about horrible things that happened and so on. Well I read recently, that don't assume that everybody has automatically post traumatic syndrome. I don't think I had a lot of it. I saw a guy get shot through the window, because we weren't supposed to be near the windows during an air raid. And somebody was drawing his picture and wanted him near the window for light. I saw a guy get shot because he went after a ball, and he thought the guard had nodded to say, yes you can get it, and the guard didn't. So, you know, and we were starving and all kinds of things. And we were shot at, as we went over targets and saw planes go down and so on. But anyway, then we talked earlier. We came back and got the GI Bill. I'd gotten out of high school in 1940, and you could tell the war was coming. You know, the march into Poland and all kinds of things. And Britain was in it early and so on. So I was saving money to go to college. Nobody else in my family had gone to college. I have four sisters.

So I didn't go to college. I went to work for a valves company and did all kinds of other things. Eventually, after Pearl Harbor, all young men wanted to get into the service, and most of us wanted to be a hot pilot [makes engine noise]. I went to get a physical and was rejected because of a deviated septum. I went and got it operated on and went back the same day. And I remember the doctor looked at me and pulled the cotton out and said, "I can't even see, but I can tell you've had an operation done on your nose. Accepted." And then you went to basic training, Atlantic City, then to a classification center in Nashville, where you had all kinds of tests. Then you'd go to the bulletin board, and if your name was on it in the right way, you'd go to an officer's school. If it wasn't you'd go to a gunnery school and be a noncom, or an enlisted man, a gunner. I evidently made it to navigation school at Monroe, Louisiana, and the government spent about $87,000 on each of us and taught us to navigate by the stars, celestial navigation, and then they sent us to Europe. And my sextant to do the star sighting was in a polished wooden box at the corner of my muddy tent in Italy. But if they needed to, they could have sent me the Pacific, you see. So that's the way it was.

After the war, I used-- yeah, I went back to Syracuse. Oh, I forgot. When I first got in the service, as so many men were going in soon after Pearl Harbor that the classification center was jammed. So what they did was to send you to a campus in a college training detachment, and I went to Syracuse University. And so, I wanted to go, I knew it, and it was a beautiful city, and I wanted to go back to it, and I did. And eventually, you know, got my undergraduate degree there, on the GI bill. Went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as an instructor, working on a master's. Finished my master's, went to Purdue University to get my doctorate in 1955.

End quote.

Yes, it was a different time, but the same Nazi regime that imprisoned my dad also killed millions of Jews, gays and others for the crime of merely existing. The Nazis of yesteryear are now being emulated by twenty-somethings and others who carried Nazi flags, torches and guns in Charlottesville last weekend. Anyone who marched and chanted with such people, some carrying Confederate battle flags, some not, is allying himself or herself with evil. Anyone who equates the counter-protesters (many of them clergy, many of them trying to help and protect others, very few of them violent in any way) with armed and violent neo-Nazis and their allies as "equally to blame" for what happened in Charlottesville is giving aid and comfort to the forces of hatred and oppression.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Many Obituaries of Dr. Frank E. Funk

If you follow me on Facebook or attend my church, you probably already know that my dad, Dr. Frank E. Funk, died early Friday morning last week. The memorial service in Tucson is this Thursday at 12:30, and the funeral and interment of his ashes will be at First Presbyterian in Wilmington, NC, probably the following Tuesday. even though my dad planned ahead, prepaid his funeral arrangements and had things all organized, there is still a lot to do.

The final arrangements for my dad are an interstate web of communications. My stepsisters are in Vermont and in Phoenix. The cities where people would care that my dad died are Syracuse, Wilmington and (a little bit) Tucson. Tucson obituary ad rates are exorbitant. Even with everything remotely interesting about his life omitted, the Tucson ad will be over $500. The Wilmington one will be much longer, covering his military service, professional career and Wilmington volunteerism. I just sent a  very long, Syracuse-centric version to Syracuse University, where he worked for 32 years, much of it as Dean of University College. And of course, there's always the Internet: my Facebook page, the page of a group dedicated to the 463rd Bomb Group for which my dad was a WW II navigator, this blog, Find-a-Grave and probably my website.

I've lost track of how many versions of the obit my stepsisters and I have labored over these past few days. There were cuts to the Tucson one, to the point at which - oops! - I temporarily left out mention of my stepmother! There was a cut to the Wilmington one to deliberately omit my own mother, who was out of the picture by the time he and Ruth moved there. There were additions to the Wilmington one to mention more of his volunteer and board member work in Wilmington, and to omit all mention of my time with him after he moved to Tucson. And there was a weird hybrid version that I put on last night, filling in details around the ages of family members at the time of his birth and other genealogical details.

Sometime in the next few days, I'll put together the definitive, kitchen sink tribute to Dad. Watch this space.


Friday, April 03, 2015

Another Moment at a Light - Good Friday Edition

The Scene: The corner of Carondelet and Wilmot, one light south of St. Michael's. I'm driving my elderly Kia. My friend Kevin is beside me. The light is red. Also stopped at the light is a pickup truck with two guys in the cab. Their passenger window is open, as is my window. The truck's passenger gestures to get my attention.

TRUCK PASSENGER: Got any weed?
KAREN: No. I just came from church, dude!
PASSENGER (laughs): How was church?
KAREN (not about to explain the intricacies of serving as acolyte at a High Church Episcopal Good Friday service): Good.
PASSENGER: Did you pray for me?
KAREN (not about to explain that the dude is bound to qualify under at least one of the petitions prayed during the service): I will.

When I got home, John was watching The Big Lebowski.

God bless the doper at the light!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Lost and Found at the River's Edge

Art by Sherlock.
This morning I wrote a rant about revising Heirs of Mâvarin.  I wrote it as a series of tweets because I am trying to cultivate my Twitter presence a bit, after a photo I posted from Gallifrey One went viral last week. But for those of you who know about my decades-long struggle with the book, here's a bit more detail.

The whole point of Heirs is an exploration of how changing perceptions of who you are - which may be arbitrarily imposed on you - affect who you actually become. If you're told that everything you knew about yourself was a lie (real world equivalent: learning at age 16 that you were adopted and your original name is Mabel, or that your mother had an affair and your real dad is your Mom's friend Bill), how does that change your priorities and your sense of identity?

So Del and Crel learn separately that they are hidden royalty, a fairly common trope in fantasy, except that in many books the character either knows the truth all along (e.g. Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings) or gets the change of status at the end of the book (e.g. Shasta/Cor in The Horse and His Boy). Heirs is supposed to tackle the psychology of that change in status, which parallels Rani's journey of self-discovery after learning he is a monster (specifically a tengrem) and the son of monsters.

But here's the problem. For all these years I've had Jamek, the twins' supposed uncle, tell Crel the truth about herself the morning after Del runs away. That gives her three days of story time to react to the problem before Del learns the truth from Shela, although he's had a day and a half of entertaining the possibility. With my 150,000+ word novel now broken into three books, the first volume lacks a proper climax unless the twins learn the truth at the same time toward the end, preferably with some physical danger thrown in. This has the added bonus of the reader possibly being surprised at the same time as the characters, instead of being told something the reader knows already. (Mind you, the savvy reader will probably figure it out before the characters do, but there's a self-congratulatory aspect to that which can be almost as good as the surprise.) So everything Crel thinks and says for most of the book needs to change. That's kind of exciting, and necessary, but it makes for a big mess!

Last night I was at a meeting of the Tucson Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers group, which currently is in desperate need of more people who will actually show up. My friend Jan wanted more excitement and emotional reactions to events, more personal danger, and more direct involvement by my main characters. I disagreed with much of what she said, but it was very clear to me that the plot structure of the first third of the story does not work as a stand-alone novel. There are lots of trilogies in which the first volume is not a complete, self-contained story, but it should at least end with a bang and a resolution of sorts, while setting things in motion for the next book. As it stands now, Heirs of Mâvarin, Book One: River's Edge pretty much ends with a whimper. Crel meets a boy, and Del decides to continue his quest. Well, of course he does. Yes, he has to escape from a trap in the house at Liftlabeth, but that's a mere flourish.

But if Jamek lies to Crel again after Del runs away, then instead of thinking about being the princess while traveling to Thâlemar, Crel spends that time sussing out that Jamek is hiding something, and deducing the truth from hints dropped by tricky old Fayubi. She figures it out the same morning that Del does, and that becomes part of the payoff for River's Edge. I think that's right and necessary, but it completely changes her perspective in what she says and does. It also takes away the one thing that makes my use of the hidden royalty trope less of a cliché. Still, the second and third books will still get to explore the psychology of it all, and this time Crel won't have the advantage of a three day head start on the truth.

Another suggested change, along with several other suggestions I rejected, was to get Del into the action a bit on Day One of  the story, aside from his cameo in the opening scene. That makes sense for his character, since he starts out as a Tom Sawyer to Rani's Huck Finn, always getting in scrapes until events start him on the road to maturity. So last night, when I should have been sleeping and recovering from my cold, I wrote a scene in which Del and Crel argue about Del taking a break from mucking out stalls. It's a decent character bit but it tells us nothing we don't learn elsewhere, and it ends with Del defiantly leaving the stable anyway. My friend wanted me to have Del witness either the end of Rani's fight with the tengrem (somehow without seeing exactly what happened to Rani, the central mystery that drives the plot for another 20 pages), or the body being pulled from the river, with Del thinking it's Rani until later that night. But having him see something and not really see it doesn't quite work, especially since the very next scene reveals that the body is that of a stranger. There isn't any place Del can go on Day One that tells him or the reader anything useful, while holding back other revelations for later. If he can't do anything that advances the plot, he's better off mucking out stalls, with Crel blackmailing him to keep him out of trouble. And I'm not sure we need to see that on the page.

It should be an exciting, frustrating couple of weeks while I sort this all out!  If you have been one of my beta readers, or would like to be, let me know whether you'd like to come along on my journey of rediscovering my characters in the service of a new, improved story.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Round Robin: The Last Goodbyes, Part Three - Farewell to Manlius

In my previous two entries, Home Again: Part One and Round Robin Challenge: So Many Goodbyes, Part Two, I covered part of my response to the last-ever Round Robin Photo Challenge: Goodbye. I told you about the death of my only brother, Steve, and my trip east to arrange his funeral and burial. I've been saying goodbye to Steve for over a month now, taking care of all those arrangements you don't think of until a loved one dies with no money and no will.

But that's not the only goodbye that's been on my mind recently. Getting Steve into a cemetery in Dewitt, NY meant that I got to go "home" to the Syracuse, NY area, a place I had not visited since a brief stop to see my Dad in February, 1986. I was born in Syracuse, lived in Dewitt until I was four, and lived at 4967 Fayetteville-Manlius Rd, Manlius from the time we left Dewitt until I moved onto campus at Syracuse University. The house was sold that summer in the wake of my parents' divorce. The year was 1976.

Here is a picture I took of that house in 1971. I've tweaked it a number of times over the years.

After the burial, I drove John, Steve's friend Sharon and myself to see some of the sights in Manlius. I knew it had changed a lot since I grew up there.  I figured that the trip to bury Steve was probably my last chance ever to see my old home town, so off I went, with John and S. as my captive fellow travelers. My cousin Vereene tagged along in her own car.

I've always had a complicated relationship with Manlius. It's a place a many bad memories for me - but lots of good ones, too.

In the first of these entries, I identified this photo as my grandmother's old house on Pickwick Drive in Dewitt. It isn't. Apparently I didn't photograph that house. No, this is the old house on F-M Road.

From there we went on into the Village of Manlius, about a mile away. When I was a kid, I took the bus to school, but sometimes I walked home for one reason or another. Across the street from Manlius Elementary was Temple's Dairy Store, which sold penny candy. Tootsie Rolls, fireballs, candy straws and root beer barrels were a powerful inducement to take advantage of the crossing guard's presence and go buy a few treats. Temple's was also a frequent stop for my family, especially in the days of Sunday Blue Laws. Temple's was open on Sundays so one could buy bread and milk, and my two favorite kinds of doughnut: "headlights" and "tail lights." The place burned sometime in the past year or two. Sad.

Our first stop in the village was at the legendary ice cream stand known as Sno Top.  Started in 1957, it was where I used to go for a "twist dipped in cherry," and its menu has expanded to an amazing selection in the years since then. It was only steps away from Manlius Elementary (now long gone), the P and C supermarket (also long gone) and not far from the Swan Pond.  Memorial Day was never complete until I had an ice cream from Sno Top after the annual parade. Open seasonally (people don't tend to buy ice cream when it's 11 degrees and snowing), it always had a sign up all winter, "Watch for our humdinger opening next spring!" On my probably-last-ever visit to Sno Top, I was tempted to get my old "twist dipped in cherry," but opted for a Dole Whip, a favorite treat of Disneylanders who visit the Enchanted Tiki Room.

On the glass wall on one side of Sno Top, along with a calendar of special flavors, an ad for Sno Top T-shirts and caps (I got one of each) and other notices, was a series of photos about a factory building that still stands across the street from Sno Top, just north of where Temple's used to be. When I was a kid it was called Stone Machinery. Foolishly, when I was in first to third grade I thought they made machinery of stone! The one thing I knew for sure at the time was that Stone Machinery let off a siren at lunchtime that we called the "noon whistle." It could be heard all the way to my house. It was also used to summon the volunteer fire department.

According to the info up at Sno Top, the Stone Machinery building was originally Remington Foundry, circa 1825, which made plows and reapers. Over the years, under different names and ownerships, they made faucets for molasses barrels, sleds and the Yankee Flyer, knife blades, high speed cutting tools, some of them diamond studded (so Stone Machinery did make machinery using stones!), and eventually flameless candles. The factory currently stands empty, but at least it's still there. In one of the photos shown above you can see the Lincoln-Mercury dealership next door to Stone Machinery, which belonged to one of my neighbors on F-M Road. That's not there any more, either.

Fayette Street, where Sno Top is, dead ends into the other main drag, Seneca Turnpike. It was nice to see Manlius Cinema still there and showing movies. Growing up I saw at least three films there: The Incredible Journey, a terrible Disney film called The World's Greatest Athlete, and Woody Allen's Bananas. Describing a scene from the latter film to my friend Joel resulted in my parents making a rule not to close my bedroom door when there was a boy in the room. Manlius Cinema is now an art house of sorts.

A few doors down from the Manlius Cinema used to be Weber's Department Store, a three room establishment I used to visit often. Nowadays, one third of it is a cupcake shop, and the rest is a restaurant that serves wood-fired pizza. They were just opening up when we stopped there for a late lunch/early dinner, sitting at a wrought iron table outside.

Here is the inside of the restaurant, where a band was setting up to perform later. The room on the left was where Weber's used to sell clothing, especially underwear, jeans and, early on, girl scout uniforms. The room on the right was for greeting cards, china animals, Breyer Horses and (I think) candy. The room that is now a cupcake shop was for school supplies, a few toys and other items. That's where I bought my mom some Evening in Paris cologne sometime during elementary school.

After dinner, I quickly tracked down St. Ann's Church but didn't linger. It was a long and dangerous drive back to Cleveland, through construction and heavy rain on the New York State Thruway, which had nearly invisible lines between the lanes at times. The next day we shipped home some of Steve's stuff and ours, dropped other stuff off at Goodwill, bought a carry-on bag, returned the rental car, flew to Phoenix and drove home. Long day!

Back in May, 2004, the early days of my first blog on AOL, Musings From Mavarin, I wrote a piece called Seven Ancient Wonders of Manlius, NY. I got email about that entry for years. I followed it up with a bunch of school reminiscences in August 2004 and an entry called Manlius On My Mind in August, 2005. AOL Journals are long gone, but the entries still exist on Blogger. When I got on Facebook, I connected with a number of former classmates, most of whom were no more than acquaintances back in the day. And that's okay. Somehow, this social media stuff keeps me connected to a place I never expected to love, and will probably never see again. Farewell, Manlius!

Now, here's a pop quiz: what was the first topic for the very first Round Robin Photo Challenge? It came from this email from Carly:

Hi Karen  
I think for your photo challenge I would like to see you photograph your hometown. The place where you feel your best. A favorite coffeehouse or restaurant, park...wherever you find yourself feeling really good. Or to be different maybe a place in town you have always meant to go, but for some reason just never found the time. Any place. A clothing store, grocery store, theater...let your imagination run wild here. I can't wait to see what you come up with.  
Love, Carly :)

Unable to go to Manlius for this, I instead posted several days of pictures from Mount Lemmon outside Tucson, and followed it up with a few entries about Arizona souvenirs. It's fitting that tonight, on my last response to the last Round Robin Photo Challenge, I finally get to post pictures of the "real" hometown.

Please see the list below this one to check out the other Robins' entries, one last time. And many thanks to every single person who ever posted a Round Robin entry over the past 9+ years.


Linking List
as of Monday, October 14th, 12:35 AM

Karen Funk Blocher - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Freda - Posted!
Day One

Ellen - Posted!
Ellen's Phlog

Carly - Posted!

Sylvia D. - Posted!
SMD Paper Arts