Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines
|Photo (c) and Property of Doris McCraw|
Halloween = Ghosts, Goblins, and all things scary. Since I love music, comics, and history who knows where this post will end up.
History: Let's start with the 'Wild Hunt'. Wild Hunt is a folklore tail, popularised by Jacob Grimm, who coined the term 'Wild Hunt', which is a part of many northern European cultures. The story typically involves a chase led by a mythologic, historic, or biblical figure. This leader is usually followed by a ghost or supernatural band of hunters. The hunters were usually composed of the souls of the dead, possibly ghost dogs, or in some cases depending on the composition of the believers could've been fairies, valkyries, or even elves.
In those cultures seeing the Wild Hunt was usually thought to presage some catastrophic event such as a war, a plague, or possibly the death of the person who witnessed it. For some people there was the belief that if you encountered the hunt you could be abducted and taken to the underworld or a fairy kingdom or your spirit was pulled away while you were sleeping to join the hunters behind the leader.
Comics: 'Ghost Rider'. Anyone who has read comic books has probably heard of Ghost Rider. This comic debuted in 1967 and was put out by the Marvel Comics Group. The original comic was actually a Western with the title character named Carter Slade. This particular series with Slade as the rider only lasted seven issues.
The next time we see Ghost Rider the title character had the name, Johnny Blaze. This character rode a motorcycle. Some of you may remember the movie of the same name that starred Nicholas Cage.
I believe the original seven Ghost Rider comic stories may have been renamed Phantom Rider, but I can't verify that.
And this brings us to the music part of the post.
Music: The song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" was written in 1948 by songwriter and actor Stan Jones. This song has been recorded by numerous singers, including Jones. According to Wikipedia, Jones claims that he was told the story, at the age of twelve, of ghost riders by a Native American who was living near his hometown of Douglas, Arizona. The story was that when the soul left the physical body it resided in the sky as a spirit. To Jones, the cloudy shapes that he saw when he looked up in the sky resembled the "Ghost Riders".
The song reached number one on Billboard magazine's chart as recorded by Vaughn Monroe in 1949. It also made the charts when sung by, The Outlaws, Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, Peggy Lee, two different versions by Burl Ives, Marty Robbins, The Ramrods, and Johnny Cash. Even Lawrence Welk recorded the song.
Western Writers of America chose it in 2010 as the Greatest Western Song of all time.
Friday, October 21, 2022
Various explanations for the syndrome have been offered. Loneliness, solitude, the near-constant wind, the lack of trees or really anything to look at except incredibly vast emptiness. The sufferers were, for the most part, people who had moved west from somewhere else—somewhere likely more crowded, where one could see neighbors’ houses, trees, maybe even rivers, lakes, or the ocean. Having decided to pull up stakes and head toward the sunset, they found themselves living isolated lives, often in sod huts, in circumstances they could not have imagined.
Yes, Indigenous peoples had lived out there before, but they tended to live in groups, with extended family and other members of their tribes. And they were born on the prairies, and lived their whole lives there. They weren’t used to “civilization,” as the white newcomers were. It wasn’t, for the Indigenous people, a landscape as alien as that of Mars or Venus might be to us.
How bad was it for settlers? In The Atlantic magazine, in 1893, E.V. Smalley wrote this: “On every hand the treeless plain stretches away to the horizon line. In summer, it is checkered with grain fields or carpeted with grass and flowers, and it is inspiring in its color and vastness; but one mile of it is almost exactly like another, save where some watercourse nurtures a fringe of willows and cottonwoods. When the snow covers the ground the prospect is bleak and dispiriting. No brooks babble under icy armor. There is no bird life after the wild geese and ducks have passed on their way south. The silence of death rests on the vast landscape, save when it is swept by cruel winds that search out every chink and cranny of the buildings, and drive through each unguarded aperture the dry, powdery snow.”
Sounds enough to drive anyone mad. But is it?
A new study has a slightly different take. It’s not the isolation or the view, it’s the sound. Or, as Smalley points out, the lack thereof.
Alex D. Velez, a paleoanthropologist with State University of New York at Oswego, put this theory to the test. Although he couldn’t study what a pioneer might have heard on the plains in 1860, he was able to find recordings from the empty spaces of Nebraska and Kansas. These, he compared to the sounds of cities like Mexico City and Barcelona.
In his summary, Velez writes, “Prairie madness is a documented phenomenon wherein immigrants who settled the Great Plains experienced episodes of depression and violence. The cause is commonly attributed to the isolation between the households and settlements. However, historical accounts from the late 19th and early 20th century also specify the sound of the winds on the plain as a catalyst. A number of conditions such as acute hyperacusis can cause increased sensitivity to environmental sounds. These conditions can result from high stress and have been known to cause behavior consistent with descriptions of prairie madness such as depression, insomnia, and violent behavior. Audiometric analysis of general human hearing patterns, combined with data on the effects of wind and open environments on hearing and communication, can be used to establish the effect of soundscapes on daily life. Thus, historic documentation and psychoacoustic analysis add to the understanding of life for settlers on the Great Plains.”
Atlas Obscura elaborates:
“Velez found that, while all the landscapes contained plenty of sounds humans would naturally be able to hear, the sounds of the city were more diverse, spreading more across the range of human hearing and forming something like white noise. But out on the prairie, there was little to none of that background din. And what sounds there were coincided with a particularly sensitive part of the human hearing range the brain notices more readily.
“’The way I can describe it is: it’s very quiet until, suddenly, the noise that you do hear, you can’t hear anything but that,’ says Velez.”
Velez doesn’t arrive at a definitive conclusion. Did the wind and the silence drive settlers mad? Was it the loneliness of knowing your nearest neighbor might be miles away? The stress of depending on an unknown landscape for sustenance, when before moving west you might have lived within walking distance of a butcher, a baker, and an established garden?
In my Western fiction, I typically write about southwestern settings, with which I’m more familiar. But I’ve been studying up on the Bloody Benders of Cherryvale, Kansas—seemingly a family of serial killers, which is rare enough in itself—for a project I’m working on. Did life on the Great Plains drive the Benders insane? I’m thinking not—I’m thinking they were psychopaths before they ever saw Kansas, and remained so after they left. And my Benders won’t be entirely human, so that’s another wrinkle. But having read all about prairie fever, it might be a subject I’ll return to later. Have you ever written about it? If so, please share in comments. I’d love to see how you handled it.
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
What was the worst writing advice you ever received? Is there any such animal as “bad writing advice”? Not according to novelist and screenwriter Chuck Wendig. "There's only advice that works for you and advice that doesn't."
Is that true? Sometimes it seems, as writers, we can get so caught up in “the rules” that we forget the story and how to tell it. We become frustrated, and it can be downright maddening to try to remember every piece of advice from every writing source we’ve ever come across and tried to use properly.
Translating our ideas into language is one way of looking at our writing process, but how do we start? I have to admit, I am truly a ‘pantser’, not a ‘plotter’—which is really out of character for me in every other aspect of my life. But somehow, orchestrating everything to an outline and strictly adhering to that brings out the rebel in me. I just can’t do it—and I’ve tried. Here’s an example of the differences from Richard Nordquist’s “About.com” publication on writing:
In his essay "Getting Started," John Irving writes, "Here is a useful rule for beginning: Know the story--as much of the story as you can possibly know, if not the whole story--before you commit yourself to the first paragraph." Irving has written far more novels than I. Clearly he knows what works for himself in a way that I don't always for myself, but this seems to me terrible advice. I'm more inclined to E.L. Doctorow's wisdom. He once wrote that writing . . . is like driving at night: You don't need to see the whole road, just the bit of illuminated blacktop before you.
(Debra Spark, "The Trigger: What Gives Rise to the Story?" Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway. Writer's Digest Books, 1999)
Yes. That’s what I do. I don’t always see the entire big picture, and I don’t need to from the very beginning. But I do see more than “just the bit of illuminated blacktop”—in other words, the immediate “coming up next” section of the story. So I guess I’m in category #3—Swiss cheese author—I know the basics of what’s going to happen, but even so, there are a LOT of little (and big!) surprise along the way.
Nope. Neither is this one...
Aside from being on one side of the “plotter/pantser” fence and being told you’re wrong by the other side, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever had? You don’t have to say who gave it to you—but I’m curious…what was it? And do you agree with the idea that there is no bad writing advice, just “advice that works for you and advice that doesn’t”? Bring on the comments and opinions! The worst writing advice I ever received? “Try to write an Amish romance. That’s what’s “hot” now…” (from an agent). What’s yours?
Thursday, October 13, 2022
On this day in history, in 1834, the first publically-identified African-American inventor was granted a patent. This historic occasion would probably have slipped right past your characters’ notice, but they would have known African-Americans, inventors or otherwise. This date just shows that the country was beginning to recognize that African-Americans could come up with just as good an idea as a Caucasian inventor.
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
The crack of the whip! The pounding of hooves! The Thunder of stagecoach wheels! It’s all here in 15 tales of old west adventure edited by Richard Prosch and written by the following authors:
Terry Alexander — J.D. Arnold — Dennis Doty — J.L. Guin — J.E.S. Hays — Gail Heath — Jackson Lowry — Jeffrey J. Mariotte — Edward Massey — Terrence McCauley — Von McKee — Cheryl Pierson — James Reasoner — Charlie Steel — Benjamin Thomas — Big Jim Williams, with an introduction by Doris Gardner-McCraw President, Western Fictioneers.
Monday, October 3, 2022
Taking a Hiatus from Medicine in the Old West to Check out
Halloween is a holiday generally credited to the Irish. The original Celtic holiday is over two thousand years old and was called Samhain (pronounced Saw-win). Essentially, it celebrated the harvesting of the crops. Samhain included lighting bonfires and wearing costumes to ward off spirits and fairies.
The Celtic origins of Halloween also included gifts for the dead. Celts wore costumes to disguise themselves from ghosts and burned bonfires to ward off bad spirits. Small bowls of food placed outside homes sought to appease the ghosts. This may well be the origins of the more recent trick-or-treat tradition.
All Saints Eve, All Hallows Eve, a celebration of the saints came at the same time of year. The holiday is now abbreviated to Hallowe’en--Halloween and is a combination of both holidays. Halloween became a time to celebrate the “dead” saints. Other holidays also celebrated during this time are: Day of the Dead or El Dia de Los Muertos that is celebrated in Hispanic countries. Whereas Halloween suggests fear of the dead and spirits, El Dia de Los Muertos celebrates the spirits of the dead, with people dressing and visiting their families in the cemeteries.
When the large number of Irish came over during the mid 1800s, they brought their traditional celebrations that included dressing up in costumes, asking neighbors for food and money, and pulling pranks in the evening on Halloween. Mischief has always been a big part of the holiday. Stealing people's front gates (on their picket fences) was a popular prank. Other activities included soaping windows and, in some places, hitting people with socks full of talcum powder or flour.
One western community was said to dress their kids up as Native Americans (no cultural sensitivity then), take them to the local bar, let them “scare the patrons,” give each a small shot of liquor, and then send them home to a good sleep.
Bobbing for apples became a Halloween tradition. It wasn’t just a game. Some of the times, girls would carve their names into the apple, and the male bobbers would bite into their future wife’s apple, foretelling the future marital union.
Some of the costumes were cute while others were downright scary as you see. These photos have little to no explanation, but they certainly are interesting. Trick or Treat!