Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ghosts, Goblins, Gremlins and Ghouls

On this year’s All Hallows Eve, I’ll be on the lookout for any or all of the four G’s, ghosts, goblins, gremlins and ghouls (not to mention witches, wraiths, warlocks and the like).

Just in case I happen to happen upon one or more of these spooky creatures I want to be able to recognize one and all, so I looked them up in The Encarta Dictionary.

Ghost: The supposed spirit of somebody who has died, believed to appear as a shadowy form or to cause sounds, the movement of objects, or a frightening atmosphere in a place.

Goblin: An imaginary being resembling a small man of unpleasant appearance, usually evil or mischievous.

Gremlin: A tiny mischievous imaginary being that is blamed for faults in tools, machinery, and electronic equipment.

Ghoul: Somebody who is morbidly fascinated with death, disaster, or repulsive things.

Just between us, I’m really hoping I don’t run into any of the above-mentioned creatures of Halloween before, on the night of, or after the fun is all said and done. Those crazy Celts are the ones who started it all when they decided to celebrate the harvest and the changing of the seasons from fall to winter. Over the years the church thought the idea of celebrating those who have gone before us into the great mystery that lies beyond death’s doorway seemed like a good idea at this otherwise uninspiring time of year.

Whatever the reason, we might all agree that it doesn’t take much of an excuse to promote the idea of a celebration. Personally, I like the idea of celebrating our ancestors better than scaring ourselves with the four G’s and/or any of the other letters that begin the names of those dark-alley types we’re all afraid of meeting.

However, I will say that writing stories about the four G’s and their kin really appeals to me. How fascinating to think up stories about shadowy characters floating around causing mischief. When I was a girl growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, my big brother, our neighborhood friends, and I used to sit out in the backyard in gathering darkness and tell ghost stories. It’s mighty fun to be scared in a group, but not so much while out somewhere on a bleak and lonely road on a stormy night all on your own.

I’ll leave you with a scary piece I heard as a child and well, it scared the S_ _ _ out of me! It was written by Indiana’s so-called Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley and made a great night-time yarn to share out in the backyard with the kids gathered ‘round.

Little Orphant Annie (written in Hoosier dialect)

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
             Ef you
Onc’t they was a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,--
So when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wasn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an’ roundabout--
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood an’ kin;
An’ onc’t, when they was “company," an’ ole folks was there,
She mocked ‘em an’ shocked ‘em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
An’ little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parents, an’ yer teachers fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you

Happy Halloween!

Author of the Arrowstar Series

“Take a chance, amaze yourself.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Writing for and About Women

What can you possibly do with a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and English? I chose to write fiction for and about women.

In 1980, when my children were aged 10, 13, and 15, I was flabbergasted when my husband said he wanted a divorce. I strongly believed marriage and family would last forever. I felt betrayed by the conventional wisdom of the 1950s and 60s. I desperately wanted to find out where I’d gone wrong and what women’s true stories were supposed to look like. I convinced myself Women’s Studies would enlighten me.

Secondly, I’d wanted to write novels from the time I was 10 years old while reading the Nancy Drew series of books for girls. How I missed the message Nancy tried to give me, I’ll never understand. This girl sleuth ran around in her Roadster solving mysteries without a thought about marriage and family. Granted she still depended on dear old dad for her daily bread and had a boyfriend named Ned, but he wasn’t nearly as important in her life as her girlfriends George and Bess.

I believed in Nancy Drew’s author, Carolyn Keene and wanted to be like her.  But, I soon learned there was no Carolyn Keene. Instead a group of writers hired to churn out what I call “formula” books for a syndicated book publisher merely wrote using that pen name. Twice betrayed, I vowed to get to the bottom of these deceptions and write stories for and about women. I wanted to inspire women to shake off conventional wisdom and follow their passions.

While attending Arizona State University in 1999 and 2000 I wrote many and varied papers for my classes in Women’s Studies. I’ve saved my writings and reading them helps me remember my mission to inspire women to take chances and be themselves.

The class Women and World Religions proved to be especially informative and interesting. For instance, I was fascinated to learn that The Great Goddess worshiped in Crete and Malta some 30,000 years ago bears a strong resemblance to the Navajos’ ancient beliefs surrounding the Great Spider Woman.

Snake symbolism shows up in art found in Crete and also among mound builders in America, who built a snake made of earth 1400 feet long coiled around an egg representative of a female deity. Another interesting find happened in 1980 in New Mexico close to a Pueblo village. An open-pit mining operation begun in the 1940s unearthed a stone snake 30 feet long and 12 inches high.

Snakes as a representation of evil show up in the Bible in the story of Adam and Eve. This seems almost a conscious attack of Goddess worship where snakes represented healing, and their ability to regenerate was likened to the power of the Goddess to give life.  I’m not advocating for women to return to Goddess worship or embrace snakes as part of their spirituality, but personally I’m captivated by these ancient worship practices.
I think my feelings of betrayal have dissipated following an in-depth university education into the many facets of women’s history. I know the Arrowstar novels I write, featuring strong and adventurous women protagonists, draw inspiration from stories about the ancients.

Who knows what lore I might be inspired to weave into the lives of Star and Kat. What ancient artifacts might lay buried under Star’s Victorian house in Mineral City or near the artesian well close to the Sugar Loaf Mine north of Kat’s Arizona ranch?

Women’s Studies did teach me quite a bit about women. But, more importantly, it helped me to find my own unique voice through the written word.

Read on!  

C.K. Thomas 
"Take a chance, amaze yourself!"

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Life After a 101-Day Vacation

We almost stayed on the road from Memorial Day to Labor Day! My husband, Frank and I drove our Newmar RV from Phoenix, Arizona to Seattle, Washington on the first leg of our journey that began Monday, Mar 25. The Newmar, being a recent purchase, naturally needed a name. We settled on Starship Arrowstar for our interest in the Star Trek series and for the Arrowstar series of books I write.

Our maiden voyage continued from Seattle to Ennis, Montana, to visit friends, on to Ashland, North Carolina for an antique motorcycle rally (International Norton Owners Association – a group my husband started way back in the 1970s for bikers who ride British bikes). Frank’s brother lives nearby on the top of a mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway where we spent a few days reminiscing about old times following the rally.

Heading west again, we stopped in my hometown of Kokomo, Indiana and made a stop for air conditioning repairs in Elkhart, Indiana, the birthplace of nearly all RV’s made in the USA. Pushing north to Dearborn, Michigan, we delighted in touring the Henry Ford Greenfield Village and Museum. Then, we struck out northward to Mackinac Island and beyond to the wild country of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Wisconsin was a blur as drove south to Fort Worth, Texas and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum, a gold mine of information about women of the West featured in my writing. On across the wide, wide state of Texas to New Mexico and Pie Town where we enjoyed the finest pie this side of the Mississippi River! Here’s a YouTube link where you can see for yourself.
We took a lazy rest break in northern Arizona’s tall pines at a place know as Heber/Overgaard. We fell in love with the breezy cool of the forest and the slow-living enjoyed by those smart enough to live there. 

We were reluctant to leave for Phoenix, but after a couple of days we made the shift into the desert heat we love to hate. Actually, the heat hasn’t been unbearable since our return with highs in the upper 90s and lows in the 80s. The pool is still swimmable, and it’s great sleeping in our own bed again.

The hard part about arriving home from any trip, as you all know, is facing the reality of life as it has progressed without you. Now’s the time to make doctor appointments, vet appointments for the dogs, mow the yard that now looks jungle-like, and get on with other pressing chores.

Speaking of pressing chores, A Train Robber’s Tale, is now way behind schedule and unlikely to be finished this year as promised. I’m also working on a second edition or at least a revised edition of the first book in the Arrowstar series where I’ve discovered some inconsistencies in the flow of time that need correcting.

If you have read Arrowstar and discovered these mistakes, I’d love hearing from you. I’ve had no feedback that anyone, besides me has noticed these discrepancies. I’d be glad to give you a free updated version of Arrowstar and also a free copy of A Train Robber’s Tale if you’re the first person to contact me with the details of your discovery. 

If you'd like to know more about our extended RV Vacation, you'll find our travel blog here

Read on!

"Take a chance, amaze yourself."

Friday, May 29, 2015

When Life Gets Complicated – Take a Breath!

Tragic events happen when people (we know who we are) forget to breathe. While working for Phoenix Newspapers I met a really good-looking guy, who was super computer savvy. This handsome and talented man seemed to me to have a steady grip on a happy life. Rumors fly around randomly inside a big corporation and one such piece of gossip said that this guy’s beautiful wife had  filed for divorce. I’ll not soon forget the morning I arrived at work to find that this man I thought had the whole world at his feet had committed suicide. Shocking!

A few years later, my 21-year-old niece took a bottle full of anti-depressants while at college! My brother nearly died with grief when she died, and I missed more than a few days of work while trying to face the reality of the tragedy of so young a life cut short.

Since those sobering days, I’ve been very careful to pace myself when I feel like I’m sinking into a well of depression. When life’s stresses start piling up, and I’m pushing too hard or have lost perspective, I STOP TO BREATHE.

Following the release of The Storm Women and the re-release of the other books in the Arrowstar Series, I pushed hard to make myself and the books more visible to the buying public. I set up a Twitter account, started managing an author Facebook page, and many other online venues for selling the series. Buried in “screen-time” sessions, attending book signings, blogging on my own blog page and many others soon overwhelmed me.

When I stopped trying to cover all the bases, I discovered that people continued to follow me on Twitter even though I quit Tweeting on a regular basis. Surprise! I’m sure the books aren’t receiving the visibility they deserve. However, now that I’m rested, I’m once again feeling like communicating, and the landscape no longer looks all uphill. A Train Robber’s Tale has had a very slow start, but each day I’m feeling more and more like tackling it once again.

Recently, I took a driving course to learn to drive our new 40-foot RV. The instructor kept repeating to me, “Slow down. We’re retired. We don’t have to hurry.” Now that’s a mantra I can thoroughly embrace!

Today's Thought:

Truthfully, I'm miserable when I'm not writing.
My husband heard me say that and quipped, "I'm miserable when you're not writing!"

Read On! Write On!

Take a chance, amaze yourself!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Writing A Train Robber’s Tale

Here’s goes nothing!  My friends and I used to say that just before bravely jumping from a high cliff into the lake or when preparing to do something equally as daring (stupid?).

I’m writing A Train Robber’s Tale in first person from Patsy Rodriguez’s perspective. (You’ll see a sneak peek below). Of course, Patsy passed away in the first Arrowstar book. You’ll remember her as Bobby Flint’s girlfriend. Star Lance has all of Bobby and Patsy’s love letters and Patsy’s diary to guide her as she writes this book about Bobby.

There are three big challenges facing me as I write this book.

First, this book is a companion book for the first Arrowstar book, and it’s written by the main character of the Arrowstar Series, Star Lance. The cover of the book will show the authors as C. K. Thomas with Star Lance as it does on the cover of The Storm Women.  Getting into Star’s mind as she writes is a challenge. I’ll also have to make sure anything about Bobby’s past mentioned in The Storm Women makes its way accurately into the pages of his story.

And, yes, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’m writing the two companion books out of sequence, having written Star’s second historical novel first. I chose to do this because Charade was still fresh in my mind and the story begged for more on those mysterious women buried up on the hill behind the church. I’m extremely glad to have reversed the order because I will be able to incorporate important events in Bobby’s life in Mineral City after he returned from Mexico that I mentioned in The Storm Women.

Second, there are some time-frame mistakes in the first Arrowstar book that I will need to correct before I can publish A Train Robber’s Tale. If you can find the errors (so far no one has alerted me that they have noticed them), I’ll send you a free advance copy of this next book, and explain to you how these errors unfortunately made it into the final version of Arrowstar!

Third, there are things about Bobby that Patsy couldn’t possibly know, so how am I going to handle that. I’ve thought about having her be all-knowing since her spirit seems to be present with Star as she’s writing. I’m leaning toward that possibility. Another possibility would be to introduce some of Bobby’s other friends as narrators of the parts of Bobby’s life that Patsy wouldn’t know about. That could get complicated, and it might cause the reader confusion. However, it might be kind of fun to have different perspectives on Bobby’s life as he lives in Mexico, moves briefly to Flagstaff to be near his sister and nephew, and then ultimately returns to Mineral City.

If you have comments or opinions about how this book might come together, please message me at I really would love your help! I hope you enjoy the following brief excerpt from the book’s present beginning. Remember beginnings can change between now and publication. Again, any constructive comments are more than welcome!

A Train Robber’s Tale

Chapter One

While sitting at Kat Abbi’s desk in the parlor of her Diamond R Ranch house surrounded by stacks of letters exchanged between accused train robber, Bobby Flint and his girlfriend Patsy Rodriguez, I strongly felt the presence of Patsy’s spirit.  I kept her diary at my elbow and faint whispers often came to me as I wrote.  A Train Robber’s Tale might well be titled Patsy’s Story because it was her voice I heard in my head as I attempted to reconstruct the life and legend of Bobby Flint.
                                                                                                -Star Lance, December, 2010

It must be understood that I dearly loved Bobby Flint.  If things had been different for our daughter in Ellenville during those years, I never would have taken her to New York when she turned six.  I was pregnant with Katherine Loraine when Bobby took off for Mexico.  He desperately wanted to return for the baby’s birth, but the sheriff here doggedly kept looking for one or more of the Sugar Loaf Gang to show up back in Mineral City.

Bobby would have loved to see his chubby baby girl and the way her dark brown eyes snapped whenever she fussed.  Katherine had Bobby’s straight-edged nose and the shape of her oval face always reminded me of him.  As she matured, I could see Bobby in the way she walked and the way she stood with her slender body held straight and tall.

I never doubted that Katherine had Bobby’s high-strung disposition.  I prayed she would outgrow her hard-headed ways and fiery temper.  Unfortunately she never did, and because of that she missed the opportunity to get to know her real father.  I would have set her straight, but by then I had already left this earthly plane.  By the time Bobby came looking for her, I could no longer console and advise her, but only observe in spirit and wonder how different her life would have been had I survived.

I thought maybe having a child would change her, smooth those rough edges and make her stop and think before she spoke.  She named her daughter after herself, Katherine Loraine, but I always called her Kat.  My granddaughter was nothing at all like her mother.  On second thought, I really can’t say that because she does favor her mother physically with her long black hair, brown eyes and a tall, but delicate frame. 

Kat’s disposition, however doesn’t imitate her mother’s in any way.  I dearly loved this quiet and thoughtful girl who adored horses and went out of her way to show kindness.  If only I could have been there for her when her mother came to such a fiery end and her father passed not long after. 

I know I’ve run ahead of my story, but memories keep tumbling through my mind in no particular order.  Let me gather my thoughts and begin with those early days when Bobby, Dexter, Tom and I took to dreaming and scheming at the cabin near the Sugar Loaf Mine.

The four of us, Bobby Flint, Dexter Girard, Tom Porter and I grew up in Mineral City about 40 miles south of Ellenville, Arizona.  We knocked around that rural landscape as teenagers and explored the caves and abandoned mines on the outskirts of Mineral City and Ellenville. 

On one such adventure, we tried to get into the Sugar Loaf Mine about 20 miles north of Mineral City, but it stood boarded up well enough to keep four ill-equipped kids out.  Wandering around the area, we ran across an artesian well and close by an abandoned, but sturdy cabin.  Bobby dubbed it “Patsy’s Cave” because I was first to spot it, and also because the solid rock wall that served as its backside made it feel very much like an underground hideout.  That was the summer before Bobby’s senior year in high school and well before the four of us ever imagined we’d come to be known as The Sugar Loaf Gang.

To be continued . . .

Write On!