‘Twas the Night Before Halloween

‘Twas the night before Halloween and all through the cemetery,
not a creature was stirring except for the scary.
The bodies were hung from the oak tree with care,
in hopes that the undertaker soon would be there.
The ghoulies were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of zombies danced ‘round in their heads.
And mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long, deathly nap.
When out on the tombstone there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my grave to see what was the matter.
Up from my coffin I flew like a hound
tore up through the dirt and set foot on the ground.
The moon on the breast of the howling wolfman,
gave a headache to me, and the vampire, at tan.
When what to my bulging red eyes should appear,
but a squadron of witches all learning to steer,
With little old broomsticks so shaky and slick,
The witches did doughnuts and then got quite sick.
More rapid than snowflakes the witches they fell,
and landing on gravestones they each gave a yell!
“Now Hilda! Now, Helga! Now, Gertie and Greer!
At this rate we never will get out of here!
To the top of your brooms! Don’t walk skip or crawl!
Now fly away! Fly away! Fly away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
so up to the treetops those witches they flew
with broomsticks and black cats and a very strange brew.
And then with the screeching of each crazy witch,
my hair stood up straight and my feet had an itch.
As I turned my head three hundred and sixty degrees,
I saw the Grim Reaper and fell to my knees.
He was dressed all in black from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all covered with ashes and soot;
A long, sharpened scythe was slung over his back,
and he looked like a butcher as he started to hack.
His eyes — how they gleamed! His smile — how it chilled!
His laughter grew louder the more graves he filled!
His hideous mouth was open quite wide,
and smelled like the pit where something had died.
The stub of a finger he held tight in his teeth,
and as he walked on the graves, there was stirring beneath.
His skin hung down loosely and flapped in the breeze,
and shook when he laughed like the leaves on the trees.
He was bony and thin, a right terrifying old dude,
and I screamed when I saw him,
Though I knew it was rude;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
soon gave me to know I had plenty to dread;
he spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the graves; then turned with a jerk,
and laying a finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, struck a frightening pose.
He sprang to my side, put his hands ‘round my neck,
and he took me away, to a place I’ll call heck.
But I heard him exclaim as we took off through the night,
Happy Halloween to all, and to all a good fright!”

Syd and Her Magic Camera


Sydney Stalcup has a lot of talents. She can make snowflakes with just a little piece of paper and some tiny scissors. She can make sandals out of duct tape, and she can even grow incredibly large, thick eyebrows whenever she wants to, because you never know when you might need them.
One of her favorite things to do, however, is to take pictures with her cell phone camera, the one her grandmother gave her that has the bright pink duct tape cover. Now, lots of people have cameras in their cell phones, but somehow, whenever Syd takes a picture, something amazing happens.
She first discovered the strange and magical properties of her camera when she took a picture of her mother. Her mom was in the kitchen, wearing an apron and holding a spatula. But when she pressed the button and looked her mother was wearing a suit of armor and holding a sword. Syd blinked hard when she saw it, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her.
Things started getting stranger when she took a picture of her dad driving their old car and he ended up looking like a 10-year-old in a racecar. “How is this possible?” she wondered.
Her friends Danna and Emily just shrugged their shoulders and said, “I dunno, maybe it’s magic.” Then, she took their picture. Danna looked like a movie star and Emily looked like a scientist. “This is too bizarre,” she said. They all laughed.
One day, as they were driving through town, she took a picture of a poor homeless lady holding a sign that said, “Will work for food.” Syd took her picture and the woman looked like a princess holding a wand.
She asked her mother about this, telling her about her camera and how it seemed to change the people in her pictures. Her mother thought and said, “Maybe it’s magic. Maybe the camera shows things for what they could be, for what is hidden beneath the surface, deeper than we can see.”
“Take my picture, mom,” Syd said and handed her mom the camera. Her mother took a shot of Syd smiling and when they looked at the picture they saw Syd, just the way she really looked. “Why didn’t it change me?” she asked when looking at the picture.
“Maybe,” Syd’s mom said, “giving her a hug. “it’s because you are completely awesome just the way you are.”
And so, you see, Syd keeps taking her pictures, every chance she gets. She likes to see the world through those images, where it becomes something magical, just the way it should be.

Friends in Interesting Places

My friend Tash and her band, The Irresponsibles.

I’ve just been thinking about my friends. They’re certainly nice to think about. 🙂 It suddenly hit me that I have some very, very interesting friends.

I’ve got a friend who plays lead guitar in a rock band. She’s Australian and really very cool. She not only plays guitar, she helps write songs, helps promote her band, book it into clubs, help them organize recordings, etc., and that’s not even her day job.

I’ve got a friend who worked for NASA and she’s absolutely brilliant. She also makes costumes and teaches belly-dancing. How awesome is that?

Then, there’s my friend who works in Marketing with the U.S. Army, is a Wiccan priestess, and has her own pet duck named Pasquale, until she found out he was really a she. Can’t remember the new name, but, she’s still a favorite pet in their household.

Oh – I almost forgot my friend Bev, who’s in training for roller derby! She helped proofread our magazine for awhile and she’s beautiful inside and out, except for the poor bruises she gets from trying to be a tough gal. 🙂

One of my oldest and dearest friends is a writer, just like me. She was my editor when I worked at the U.S. Army newspaper, The Fort Jackson Leader and she became my friend after writing an editorial about her father’s cancer and dealing with his death. Her honesty was what broke through a lot of things in my own heart that I’d been hiding from and I learned that facing the truth about things is better than pretending everything is okay because then healing happens. She’s had a bumpy ride in life but she is one of the most positive people I know. We can talk for hours and every time we do, we end up trying to solve all of the world’s problems.

I also have a friend who’s a pastor’s wife.She has a passion for Israel and prophecy and is addicted to coffee. 😉 She has made fast friendships with the people of a Russian ethnic church that shares the building with her husband’s Lutheran church. She was also there with me when my daughter passed away, anointing her with oil and helping us say goodbye.

I’ve recently met quite a few great people on the set of the Brothers Barbarian, Season II, a comedic fantasy web series written by Ken Whitman, starring Ken and Tim Gooch, who’s also the director, and the great Larry Elmore, an extraordinary artist and creator of the comic SnarfQuest.

They all became friends and feel more like family than friends.

One special person that I met were Lynnette Cole, who did costumes (along with her friend Jodie) for the series. She lives in Tennessee and has a herd of unicorn goats, among other critters. Now that’s pretty interesting, isn’t it? Some day I hope to visit her and see those little things for myself.

Tana Stalcup is another friend I made there. She’s a fashion model and mother who had a major role in the series. Her character is a mysterious, evil woman with a lot of power. Meeting her became a two-for-one deal when I also had the privilege of getting to know her daughter Sydney and becoming friends with her. She’s a talented artist with a pair of scissors and takes incredible pictures with her cell phone camera.

I even have a friend, Louise, who’s 87 years old, and who worked and lived with children in a children’s home before she married a handsome Naval man and they adopted several children, before he passed away last year. She has been a member of the church I’ve become a member of for 50 years and every year she helps them peel apples and make apple pies. This year, they made more than 400 pies, which they sell to raise money for charities.

So, you see, I’m a pretty lucky person – having all of these interesting friends. They’ve made my life very rich, and I wouldn’t trade any of them — not for a million dollars. 🙂 It’s nearing the time for us to count our blessings, I guess, so I’ve gotten a head start.

Brothers Barbarian Season 2

For four days, my husband Jolly and I were at the Doe Run Inn in Brandenburg Kentucky on the set of the web series The Brothers Barbarian, Season 2. It was nothing like we expected. We did expect it to be beautiful, and it was. But the rest of the experience was so surprising in so many ways.

We arrived on a Saturday morning, and were greeted by Ken Whitman, an important figure in the gaming industry for at least 30 years — someone Jolly had known from the past. He showed us where to go, and Jolly waited for his turn to become an orc.

Once in the makeup chair, his face was glued, painted and other things by Herschel Zahnd and Jesse Meyer, until he was unrecognizable. Next, he went to get a costume from the wonderful ladies, Jodie and Lynnette. He came out looking completely inhuman – in a good way.

As Jolly prepared for his first day of filming, we met Larry Elmore. We had met him before at many cons, but didn’t really think he knew who we were. We were pleasantly surprised that he knew us. He was such a genuinely warm and friendly person right from the beginning. I spent the first day of filming holding Larry’s beloved pipe while Jolly got a taste of stardom. 😉

Sunday, it was my turn. I became a human villager and went to a state park where some establishing shots were filmed. I worked with so many talented people while there. Nycole Huber stands out to me because she toughed out a day of filming, even though she was suffering from an illness.

I was surprised at how much work was involved in getting just the shortest scenes finished to quality standards. Jolly and I were both becoming more intrigued by all of the talent and gutsiness of everyone involved.

Monday was the roughest day of filming, with a constant cold rain making things difficult. I spent a good couple of hours laying on the wet grass in my very absorbent costume, getting rained on. I was freezing, but all I could think about was how honored I felt to be a part of it. I wasn’t the only one getting rained on, after all.

Tuesday, we filmed tavern scenes, and I spent most of the morning upstairs, hanging out with a sweet young lady named Sydney, the daughter of the awesome Tana and Cory Stalcup. Tana was on set to play a crucial role, Taana, an evil, but beautiful character, who exuded a great presence in her scenes. Sydney thought it was funny that her mother was playing someone evil, and she loved seeing the female orcs that were showing up all around the set after talented actresses got out of Jesse Meyers’ makeup chair.

My conversations with Sydney are moments I think I will treasure for a long, long time. But, they weren’t the only surprisingly poignant moments there at the Inn. After filming, in the evenings, it was common to see people gathered around the wooden millstone cover that was used as a table, sipping bourbon or other drinks, and chatting late into the night. The great Larry Elmore, such an icon and talented artist, we discovered, was a fantastic story teller who had us in stitches on many occasions. The conversations were often hilarious, but sometimes they were pretty deep, leaving a lasting warm impression on both of us.

One of the things I was most surprised and delighted by was the friendships that were forged there. I had the honor of helping costumer Lynnette Cole gather items for the tavern scenes and set them up. We became great friends over these mundane, but important tasks. I treasure that.

Helping Tana lace up, and meeting her daughter, helped me realize how delightful a young woman she is, and how sweet her daughter is. I was surprised that the stereotypes people have of models and even artists like Elmore, are far from true. Tana couldn’t have been more friendly, intelligent and humble. Elmore was down-to-earth, kind, joyful and wise. There was not one person there who fit into a stereotype. Every single person brought all they had to the project, pitched in, helped in every way they could and did so joyfully and enthusiastically.

Driving back home, Jolly and I were on a high that we hadn’t felt in a very long time. Things have been pretty rough on us since our daughter, Amber, passed away. I had never expected to feel joy again. And, we agreed that what helped us the most was being surrounded by such a positive group of people. Every person was excited about the project and treated everyone there with love and respect. It was like we had stepped into a strange world that we liked an awful lot.

Since we filmed things out of sequence, I am not exactly sure how the plot to the new season of Brothers Barbarian will unfold, but I do know that it’s going to be surprising and delightful, just like the people we met those four days. I hope that everyone who watches the series will recognize the genius, hard work and passion of everyone involved. I know that everyone there was committed to giving the very best they had to the project.

If you’d like to support the filming, please visit www.brothersbarbarian.com