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!"