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Some Roots of My Story-Telling....

Good Morning My Confidants!

As a writer and author, I am always asked those common questions we get asked, including something like, "Have you always wanted to be a writer?"

I think I have probably always made up stories. But the first time I ever remember it being something I thought of consciously making it a part of who I was stretches back to the fifth grade.


My cousin had come to stay, and as usual, playing with me was different than playing with most kids. Cops and robbers and “cowboys and Indians” always wound up turning into something more akin to space cops and robbers and some alien planet version of the latter with me trying to make peace with the “Indians” (I wouldn’t have known the term “indigenous peoples” in the early as a kid under ten years old in the sixties). Somewhere real early I had figured out that if humans were on another planet, we were the aliens. I mean, after all, per US Immigration, an “alien is any person who is not a citizen or national of the United States of America. Other common ways to say alien include noncitizen or ‘foreign national’.” *


I must have been watching something that pointed out that the other space races were only “alien” if they were on Earth. But if we were on Altair IV or Vulcan or Eminiar or Janus VI, we were the aliens.

I got that early. It blew me away. I embraced it.


When the kids came to my house, I would turn into this writer/director, guiding us along in our games so that there was actually a beginning and middle and end. I don’t know if I was aware enough or not as a little kid that we shouldn’t have taken the lands from America’s indigenous peoples, but I did know that I didn't see the "Indians" as the bad guys.


But back to my cousin.... We were playing and right off I started doing that directing thing again and suddenly we were doing a very Outer Limits-like story with an alien who had somehow gotten trapped on Earth, and I think he must have died at the ending or something, because she and I were crying at the end and our parents were very confused. My cousin urged me to write the story down and mail them to her. She said it all had somehow seemed so real. I never did write that story down—sadly—but I do remember something happening that day.... Something OPENING to me that I had never really thought about.


It clicked. Oh, it clicked.

Because it all really went back even further. That whole "writing it down" thing.

I remember writing a poem about witches stirring up a big pot and using words like “eye of cat and leg of frog” when I was quite young and how my teacher was so struck with it that she submitted it to a radio station, and it was picked as one of the creative writings that was read on the air. I was thrilled.

So, when I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons—let’s see, that was around 1974 and the box the Dungeon Master was using was perhaps one of the first, so I would have been fourteen—I was immediately intrigued. Unfortunately, we only played it a couple times, but it was in my brain and years later I would take up the dice and play the game for sure.


My only thing I didn't like was that I was playing in a world that someone else created (Gary Gygax I believe) and I wanted to create my own creatures and cities and peoples and stuff. I was mostly a player, and I wanted to “write” what was going on instead of only “reading” or playing the game.

When I was in junior high school, I was in one play and one play only—”Up the Down Staircase”—and was bored almost instantly. I didn’t want to be a character someone else created. I wanted to be the creator and direct of my own characters that other people would act into being.


I remember the first time—even if it only a play we did about the Irish when I was about fourteen—the absolute THRILL I got when people were reading my lines, acting out my scenarios—scenes that had only been in my head that were now "real." It was like I was some kind of god or something (although that felt blasphemous to a kid who was still very insnared by my Baptist upbringing).


I started creating my own comic books and graphic novels long before I realized exactly what I was doing—although they were highly influenced (ripped off of!) the works of other's work. I specifically remember my Planet of the Dogs comic book which was so clearly a rip-off of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but, oh, the excitement! I was creating something!


In high school I created my first space epic. It was influenced by Marvel’s original Star Lord (he was much different than the bloke you see in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies) as well as their character Warlock, with a bit of Star Trek and Star Wars thrown in. The difference was that this story was different enough from what had influenced me that I would never have been sued if the stories were published. I was creating my own outer-space governments and planets and races and such. My hero was from Earth, but left when he gained “superpowers” that were given to him by an "ancient crystal." There was in intergalactic war and everything. And these stories were published in a fanzine produced by a local science fiction fan club and I was in HEAVEN. There was nothing like knowing that I had not only written something, but that it was “good enough” to be in printed and read by other people!


I had tasted the manna from Heaven, and I would never be satisfied with grilled cheese sandwiches again!


I was in ecstasy.


Then I discovered something with a handful of friends who played D&D, and that was a game they had created called “The Little People.”


Oh! My! God!


This was a tabletop roleplaying game that took place on Earth, in a world almost exactly like our own, during the present time. We created our own characters and we were all the “Dungeon Masters” all at the same time.


The origins of The Little People started with one of my dearest friends in my life, Paulie Gilmore, who went on to become—legally—Paulle Jung Morvant-Alexander. She, back in the late sixties, early seventies, was a huge fan of Paul McCartney. So much so that she created her own Paul McCartney doll out of an artist manikin and wood putty. It looked a lot like him too. It soon turned into a little joke between her and her friends when they would ask how Paul McCartney was doing, and she would tell them what he had been up to lately. Except she soon corrected them and said that he, of course, wasn’t the real Paul McCartney, and that her guy was Paul Little.

Soon, her friends wanted to join in, and since only a few were talented enough to make them like she did, they would buy fashion dolls like Barbie and Ken, and give them names, and they would all join the cast. Now these weren’t kids. They were all at least high school age, and if I remember this “origin story” well enough, they were in college. Their characters would get very involved, and they all created complicated storylines for their Little People.


When I heard about this, well, I had to be a part of this!

The problem was, by this time, Paulle was living in Kalamazoo and there was no way I could join in. But her friend, Joanne Papin, had moved back to Chicago and introduced me first to a different way of playing Dungeons and Dragons (there were far less rules and far more story-telling) and then, finally, at my urging and pushing, to The Little People.


Oh. My. God!


I was hooked!

We were adults—young to be sure at 18 or 19, but not kids—and playing the same kind of games I did when I was a kid with my space cops and robbers, and later with my Outer Limits stories!

We didn’t act them out, this was strictly tabletop, but we weren’t constrained by dice and the rules of some game company either. We were creating everything as we went along. Our people were friends, and family, and co-workers, and neighbors, and more. They dated and fell in love and formed families. Including poly-families! I was stunned that such lover situations could be and I knew I liked it—a lot!

We would all get together at least once a week and hang out for hours and eat meals and play out our stories. It was incredible!


And I will admit that the occasional character turned out to be a vampire or the head of a secret organization (ala UNCLE or SHIELD).


Now somewhere along the line, Jo and Paulee, sadly, severed their friendship, which was why I had to push so hard to get her to "Little People." But to help prevent Jo from falling into a kind of despair over it all, to allow her to have fun with it all, I suggested that we no longer call what we were doing as “Little People,” but call it “The Other People” instead.


And thus was born a whole lot.


It is why today I call my characters the Other People. It’s what inspired me to start playing with dolls—something we didn’t do in those days, instead we filled binders with photographs of actors and models and singers and cast them as our people. 

However, sometime between me moving away from Chicago-Land and moving to Kansas City, and this last year of me starting my collection of Other People, I finally got the nerve—may blessings be forever showered upon you Angelia Sparrow, so mote it be—to begin to finally write the stories of my Other People down...and this is the important part...submit them to publishers.


And I sold stories! One after another after another after another after another.


Now this was real ecstasy.

My Other People, some that I had created thirty years previously, were being written into stories and published! They were REAL! Readers were liking my stories too! Buying them! I was being paid to do what I love more than just about anything in my life!


And I skipped right over the part about my radio soap opera that I called Out and About. Sixteen episodes, acted out, recorded, edited, and put on the air in several cities. Some of these characters and places, originally created in my Other People days, went on to appear in my novels.

But that is a story for another time.


This was just a tale—which turned out to be a long one, huh?—about how I became a storyteller. It’s right there in my blood somehow. A part of who I really am (and I will talk about that more later as well). Who I was born to be.


And this period of two plus years that I haven’t been writing was very depressing. I was too depressed to write and depressed because I wasn’t writing, a near deadly combination. But finally, that is ending! And I simply cannot every tell everyone who has traveled this journey with me, and supported me, sent me dolls, just what that has meant to me.

I'm writing again!


And just wait until you meet Calvin, the boy who came from... Ooops! That would be telling! But this much I can tell you, you’re going to love him!


And speaking of Cal, I should make sure I spend some time on his next chapter!

So.... until tomorrow....



BG “Gentle Ben” Thomas

Jan 8, 2021, Entry #008

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Born to be wild-ly imaginative.

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