“If an adverb became a character in one of my novels, I’d have it shot. Immediately.”

Elmore Leonard

What is so deliciously funny about this statement is how much it is helped by an adverb. Leave it off and the sentence loses its determination. To appreciate the power of the adverb, change it to another adverb. “Eventually.” “Cheerfully.” “Reluctantly.” Each adverb changes the tone of the sentence. Each one helps the sentence in its own unique way. That’s what adverbs are; they are helping words – words that modify verbs (at least that is what I was taught in elementary school.)

There are a number of articles and books on writing that express varying opinions on adverbs; most agree that they should be used – dare I say it – rarely. Really, without a handy adverb, how else could one write that one should not use adverbs very often…a lot…ever. No matter how I try, the verb “use” needs the help of an adverb unless I go the way of Elmore Leonard and write it out of existence.

However, an action like that results in an equal and opposite reaction, especially when it comes to dialogue tags. If the old standby “said” is abandoned by its adverb helpers, writers will have to fill in the gap with excessive words to convey the proper meaning.

“I told you not to come,” she said angrily versus “I told you not to come,” she said, her face turning a deep, purple shade of magenta.

“Relax and stay awhile,” he said seductively versus “Relax and stay awhile,” he said as he hurried about the room, plumping the pillows, dimming the lights, pulling the cork out of the wine bottle, and checking that the CD player was set on track 7 “Tonight’s the Night.”

Another reaction is to eliminate “said” altogether as a dialogue tag and replace it with a show-not-tell word.

“I told you not to come,” she growled. “I told you not to come,” she raged, she wailed, she ejaculated (a salute to Wodehouse.)

The problem is sometimes show-not-tell dialogue tags create unintended mental images.

“Relax and stay awhile,” he purred.

“I don’t think I should,” she squeaked.

“Oh, please do. You’ll be safe with me,” he panted.

“That’s not what my mother told me,” she shivered.

Oh, dear, let’s draw the curtain on this little scene while we have the chance. Now getting back to adverbs, I have decided to allow for their existence, even those that become a character in an Elmore Leonard novel. I might even take a bullet for an adverb. Figuratively speaking.


Anthony Trollope “The Press”

anthony-trollopeAnthony Trollope (1815–1882) was born in London, England, the son of Thomas Anthony Trollope, a barrister, and Frances Milton Trollope, a writer. In 1841, Trollope took a position as a clerk for the Post Office. Seven years later, he moved to Ireland where he married and began to write, publishing his first novel in 1847. The Warden, published in 1855, was the first of his novels to achieve success. The “Barsetshire” novels and the “Palliser” novels are considered his masterpieces.

The following is an excerpt from The Warden about the popular press.


Who has not heard of Mount Olympus–that high abode of all the powers of type, that favored seat of the great goddess Pica, that wondrous habitation of gods and devils, from whence, with ceaseless hum of steam and never-ending flow of Castalian ink, issue forth fifty thousand nightly edicts for the governance of a subject nation?

Velvet and gilding do not make a throne, nor gold and jewels a sceptre. It is a throne because the most exalted one sits there–and a sceptre because the most mighty one wields it. So it is with Mount Olympus. Should a stranger make his way thither at dull noonday, or during the sleepy hours of the silent afternoon, he would find no acknowledged temple of power and beauty, no fitting fane for the great Thunderer, no proud façades and pillared roofs to support the dignity of this greatest of earthly potentates. To the outward and uninitiated eye, Mount Olympus is a somewhat humble spot–undistinguished, unadorned–nay, almost mean. It stands alone, as it were, in a mighty city, close to the densest throng of men, but partaking neither of the noise nor the crowd; a small secluded, dreary spot, tenanted, one would say, by quite unambitious people at the easiest rents.

“Is this Mount Olympus?” asks the unbelieving stranger. “Is it from these small, dark, dingy buildings that those infallible laws proceed which cabinets are called upon to obey; by which bishops are to be guided, lords and commons controlled, judges instructed in law, generals in strategy, admirals in naval tactics, and orange-women in the management of their barrows?”

“Yes, my friend–from these walls. From here issue the only known infallible bulls for the guidance of British souls and bodies. This little court is the Vatican of England. Here reigns a pope, self-nominated, self-consecrated–ay, and much stranger too–self-believing!–a pope whom, if you cannot obey him, I would advise you to disobey as silently as possible; a pope hitherto afraid of no Luther; a pope who manages his own inquisition, who punishes unbelievers as no most skillful inquisitor of Spain ever dreamt of doing; one who can excommunicate thoroughly, fearfully, radically; put you beyond the pale of men’s charity, and turn you into a monster to be pointed at by the finger.”

Oh heavens! And this is Mount Olympus!


Writers have the power of the pen on their side. May they wield it wisely and well.

The Social Compact

I appreciate my brain cells; they go out of their way to think good thoughts for me. For this reason, I never take them for granted and always strive to make them feel valued. I do this by giving them various thinking tasks to perform. Several months ago, I was curious about social compacts in stories. I wanted to know (1) if a social compact exists and (2) what specific elements does it contain. So far all the stories I have read do have a social compact. As for the specific elements, I decided to use the elements of the social compact I developed for teaching. These worked well in the classroom community, and I wondered if they worked just as well in novels.

Effective communicators convey messages in a variety of formats. They take responsibility for the clarity, purpose, and the meaning of the messages they send. They also seek to interpret messages they receive objectively and accurately.

Complex thinkers recognize patterns and make conjectures, applying both deductive and inductive reasoning. They transfer prior knowledge to new contexts. They synthesize multiple concepts and evaluate their relationship. They can analyze an idea and examine its various components, reflecting on the process and the results. Complex thinkers are not threatened by diverse ideas – they welcome them.

Self-directed learners are autodidacts. They set goals, monitor their progress, and evaluate their results. They take ownership of their learning and, to that end, manage their time, establish benchmarks, and take risks.

Collaborators give of their time, talent, energy, and resources for the good of the community. Collaboration requires effective leadership, respectful interaction, and compliance with group norms in order to produce the best results.

Community participants are fully engaged members of their community and work for its benefit. They know what is expected of them and their importance to the community. They understand the impact their attitudes and actions have on the other members, either for their benefit or their detriment.

Thus far, every novel I have read or am currently reading has a social compact with one or more of these elements. What’s more, the plot and/or the conflict revolve around the social compact. Often there is a demonstration of it, a rebellion against it, a deviation from it, or a dysfunction within it.   Recently, I decided to see if this is true for fairy tales. It turns out that it is. Here are some examples:

  • Effective Communication ~ The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • Complex Thinking ~ The Princess and the Pea
  • Self-Directed Learning ~ Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Collaboration ~ The Bremen Town Musicians
  • Community Participation ~ The Woman and Her Pig

I am curious to know what you think. Is there a social compact in the book that you are currently reading?   Which of the elements is central to the plot? Can you think of a fairy tale that relates to one of the elements of the social compact? I would like to know.

Gunslinger Ridge Experiment

The rider stepped away from Jane, moving out with the same slow, measured stride in which he had approached, and the fact that his action placed her wholly to one side, and him no nearer to Tull, had a penetrating significance.

“Where I was raised a woman’s word was law. I ain’t quite outgrowed that yet.”

Tull fumed between amaze and anger.

“Meddler, we have a law here something different from woman’s whim–Mormon law!… Take care you don’t transgress it.”

“To hell with your Mormon law!”

Zane Grey ~ Riders of the Purple Sage


The rider made a swift move that left his hat on the ground and his gun-sheaths empty.

“LASSITER!” cried Jane.

Keeping his guns trained on Tull, the rider called Lassiter acknowledged Jane with a slight nod of his head.

“If you know me at all, then you know I always give people a choice,” said Lassiter. “Here is yours: You will come with me to Gunslinger Ridge or your body stays where it is.”

Tull started to protest, but Jane stepped forward.

“Wait!” she said. “What are you going to do to Elder Tull?”

“Ma’am, if you will accompany us, you will find out. I promise I will see you safely back to your home.”


Gunslinger Ridge rose before them like a flat-topped sentinel. Lassiter dismounted and motioned for Jane and Tull to follow him. He led them up a switchback path to the top of the ridge. If Tull considered bolting for freedom, he made no outward sign. Lassiter’s reputation bound him more securely than any rope. He scanned the horizon, noting the distant peaks and hints of canyons. The valley below was mottled with purple sage. The sight comforted him. He was still Elder Tull and ruled this land. He turned to the rider.

“Well, Lassiter, I’m here. State your purpose.”

“You hold to Mormon law,” Lassiter said, “and I say woman’s word is law. This day will reveal which one is stronger. Up here on Gunslinger Ridge, I control the elements: fire, water, wind, and earth. To you and to the lady, I will give power over fire, water, and wind. Show me what you can do with them, and I will decide which law is the more powerful. Tull, you go first.”

Lassiter stepped back and motioned to Jane.

“Ma’am, I think it best if you stay close to me over here.”

Jane hesitated. Lassiter! Everyone in Utah territory knew of him. It was said that he left it to others to keep track of all the men he had killed; he forgot about them as soon as breath left their body. Yet a second look at his face revealed lines of sorrow, which Jane perceived was born of compassion. She drew a deep breath and inched closer to him.

“That’s right, ma’am. Over here, you’ll be safe.”

Once Jane was by his side, Lassiter pointed at Tull.

“You got power over fire, water and wind. Let’s see what you do with it.”

Tull stiffened. He felt his neck hairs rise. He lifted his hand. It tingled with warmth. He was afraid that Lassiter was making a fool of him and was about to refuse. Then he remembered Lassiter’s guns. He was more afraid of them.

“Alright then,” he said. “I call forth fire.”

Immediately a geyser of fire burst from the ground at his feet. Startled, Tull jumped back. The fire towered over him like a pillar. Hesitantly, Tull stretched his hand toward the horizon. His action directed the fire over the valley where its flames began consuming the sagebrush, the trees, and the grasses. Tull cast a fierce look of joy at Lassiter and Jane.

“Water!” he said.

The sky opened and waters rained down. It quenched the flames, sending billows of steam to the heavens. Water filled the valley and mounted the walls of the canyons, drowning all wildlife. Tull waved his arms.

“Wind!” he shouted.

A gust of wind swept over the ridge and into the valley, driving back the waters. It swirled on the ground and roared through the canyon walls. It caught birds in flight, scattering their feathers in a whirlwind. Tull threw his hat into the air and caught it, laughing.

Suddenly the wind ceased. Tull looked at the valley below; it was purple with sage. He whirled on Lassiter.

“What sort of devilry is this?” he said. “Did I or did I not have power over fire, water, and wind? Or was this some sort of low trick?”

“It’s no trick,” said Lassiter. “You showed what you would do with power just as truly as you are standing here. But now you have to see what the lady will do.”

Turning to Jane, he said, “Ma’am, you now have the same power as Tull here. What will you do?”

Jane walked to the middle of the ridge and turned in a slow circle. She saw the valley, the distance hills, and the canyons in a panorama below her. The valley was her home; its inhabitants were her people–family, friends, and neighbors. She thought about what she could do to show her power; she wondered whether she wanted that kind of power.

“Lassiter,” she said, “if you give me power over fire, will you also give me a sheaf of wheat, a grinding stone, and a cake of leaven? For if you give me fire, I will use it to bake bread.”

Lassiter shook his head.

“Sorry, ma’am, I don’t have those things at present. You’ll have to wait til you get back to your place.”

“Fool woman,” Tull muttered.

“Well, then,” said Jane, blushing, “I’ll make do with water. Can you show me where the elderberry bushes grow on this ridge? If you give me water, I will dig a channel to water the elderberry bushes. When the elderberries are ripe, I will pick them and make elderberry wine.”

Again, Lassiter shook his head.

“As much as it would please me to oblige you, ma’am, I can’t guide you to an elderberry bush. None grow up here–only in the valley.”

“Ha!” said Tull.

Jane shuddered and looked at Lassiter.

“Ma’am,” he said, “you’re doin’ just fine. You still got power over wind.”

Jane felt him supporting her, giving her strength, even though he made no move to touch her. She felt a slight breeze on her cheek. Wind! She would use the wind.

“Lassiter, I have a field of sunflowers that are ripe for harvest. May I use the wind to turn my mill to press the seeds for oil?”

Lassiter held out his hands.

“Ma’am, you need the wind of the valley. I only control the wind up on this ridge.”

“That’s it!” cried Tull. “It’s plain that Jane has no more sense of power than a child. Lassiter, you are witness. I alone could control the elements–my law is stronger.”

He strode over to Jane and grabbed her by the arm.

“Lassiter, help me!” cried Jane.

There was no response except the sound of a shovel striking dirt. Lassiter was digging a hole.

“Lassiter” shouted Tull. “I’m leaving now and taking Jane with me. You hear? I won! You can’t stop me!”

Lassiter stopped digging and leaned on his shovel.

“That ain’t the way it goes,” he said. “I’m the one who decides who’s stronger, and I still say, Jane’s word is law–over your Mormon law.”

“What!” said Tull. “You saw with your own eyes what I did. I burned up the valley, then I flooded it, and finally I blew the waters away. Jane couldn’t command that kind of power.”

“She didn’t have to,” said Lassiter. “She had the power in her own hand to make the bread, the wine, and the oil just by honoring nature’s own laws. She won. And I’m keepin’ my word to her and seein’ her safe back home.”

“Wait!” said Tull, “That’s not fair. You said nothing about keeping to nature. There’s still one element left–earth! Give us power over earth to settle the matter.”

Lassiter shook his head.

“I’m the only one with power over the earth.”

He pointed to the hole.

“There’s your grave. The only way you’ll leave this ridge alive is to admit you were wrong. All your power is an illusion–it’s not real. You’ll remain here until you realize that.”


Lassiter saw Jane safely back home.

“Why?” Jane asked.

“Well, ma’am, it’s a grand experiment I’m doin’,” said Lassiter. “People all have a story about themselves–you, me, everybody. No harm in that; in fact, our story gets us through life. And as life goes on, most people change their story to keep it real. But people like Tull make the mistake of writin’ the ending of their story. Then, no matter what the facts are, they make it fit their narrative, even if it means believin’ a lie. So far, you’re the only one who has ever returned from Gunslinger Ridge.”

Writing Prompt from Terrible Minds


Leonard’s Legs Leave Home


Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap 

The sound of running feet echoed across the desert.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

After years of threatening to do so, Leonard’s legs finally ran away with him. And he was suffering for it. His bones ached, his lungs burned, and his blood beat a steady tattoo in his ears. He glanced down at the road and groaned. He had crossed another state line.

Leonard was annoyed with his legs; this was a most inconvenient time for them to leave. He had deadlines to meet–appointments and obligations. Although he felt the burden of his responsibilities, apparently his legs did not. They didn’t seem to understand that if one is an avid writer, then one has to…well…write! His legs were so unreasonable!

And yet, Leonard had to admit that they had a point. He had grown increasingly distracted, like he was in another world. Well, he was sometimes. Actually, he always was, but lately the occasions that he emerged from his little cottage had diminished. It made contact with the outside world even more challenging; it was like having to learn to speak all over again. He groaned. He had become so disconnected that he recently misunderstood a writing prompt from a blogger. The blogger had asked for three-word titles; Leonard thought he was supposed to write a three-word title story. He wrote a lovely story with a three-word title and posted it on the blogger’s website. He wondered why there were almost three hundred responses to the prompt. Then he began reading them and realized they were all titles, not stories. How humiliating!

It was such a nice story, too, thought Leonard. It really cracked me up. All about that bull moose at Cabela’s. I even included a picture I took at Cabela’s when I visited there with my brother. What a shock that place was! Stuffed animals everywhere! I saw the lion my cousin killed in Africa mounted on one of the shelves. Strange seeing that lion in Cabela’s–I first saw it at my cousin’s house, along with his other trophies. The rhino was the worst; I hated seeing the stuffed rhino head. I love rhinos.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

Why? he thought. Why are my legs doing this? Was Chesterton right? Must we propitiate the barbaric god of legs with fire and wine?

A few days ago, Leonard’s arms got wind of what was happening, and they wanted a piece of the action. They demanded that the legs stop every hour so that they could do push-ups.

Oh, Lord, no, pleaded Leonard. Not that–I just couldn’t.

So far, the legs had refused to listen to the arms’ demands. Leonard’s arms were not pleased, and to show their displeasure, they waved themselves about as Leonard’s legs ran.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.


Next town–Albuquerque

Jane Austen ~ “Novels”

I was recently tagged by Sophia who blogs at Sophia Ismaa Writes to name my favorite nineteenth century author. Well, now since most of my favorite authors are from the nineteenth century, I had several from which to choose. I choose Jane Austen and share here a post of one of her memorable quotes from a previous blog.

jane-austenJane Austen (1775–1817) was born at Steventon near Basingstoke, England, the daughter of George Austen, the rector of the local parish. She lived with her family at Steventon and later at Bath. After her father’s death, Jane and her mother moved to Chawton, Hampshire. Jane’s formal education ended in 1786 after a near fatal illness; she returned home never again to venture beyond the family circle. Jane Austen’s better known works include Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey.

The following is an excerpt from Northhanger Abbey.


“I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding–joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust.

“Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans.

“Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried.

“From pride, ignorance, and fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens–there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.

“‘I am no novel-reader–I seldom look into novels–Do not imagine that I often read novels–it is really very well for a novel.’ Such is the common cant.

‘And what are you reading Miss–?’

‘Oh! It is only a novel!’ replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame.

‘It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda’: or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”


What do you think of Jane Austen’s opinion about novels?  Do you think her critique is relevant for modern times?

Sailing to Byzantium


“I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Notes from the Underground

The Underground Man writes like an Enneagram Five; he observes Life from the safety of his solitary existence. Sadly for him, he does not enjoy the view. It fills him with contempt for his fellow humans and with even more contempt for himself. Being a Five means living with an elevated level of consciousness, and sometimes, as the Underground Man says, too much consciousness is a disease. (By the way, if that is true, I know some very healthy people.)

I also am a Five so I sympathize with the Underground Man, but I also think that being a Five is a “very charming thing too.” It all depends on your perspective.   I picture myself on a sailing ship. As it moves through the waters, I observe Life passing by. On one side of the ship, there is sunlight and on the other side there are shadows. I see things that are appealing and things that are appalling; depending on which side of the ship I stand. People like the Underground Man spend the entire journey on the shadow side of the ship. That’s why their observations bring them such misery. I spend more time on the sunlit side, observing that which is great and glorious.

I started losing my hearing seventeen years ago. It began with tinnitus in my left ear and then my right ear. At first, it was the constant ringing in my ears that interfered with sound, but then, sound itself grew distorted and muffled. I started wearing hearing aids five years ago to amplify sounds enough to compensate for the tinnitus and the distortion. Yesterday, my hearing took a turn for the worse, and now, even with hearing aids, I can barely hear sounds and distinguish spoken words. It is discouraging because it has increased my isolation from other people. But it has made me thankful that I can still see–I still am an observer, sailing on my ship, only now I am the only passenger.

One of the odd things I have observed about my hearing loss is that the sounds I hear do not match what I see. A wave crashes; I hear a splash. The wind roars; I hear a whisper. Someone shouts at me; I hear them from a distance, their voice barely carrying across the great divide. On one side of the ship, I see a face distorted with hatred and rage, but I cannot hear the words. That’s a good thing. Instead of retreating to the other side of the ship, I can stay where I’m at and smile and wave.

It’s like how Merion, a deaf woman, explains it to a girl in The Book of Rhino.

“So do you ever miss it, hearing, I mean?” the girl asked.

“Some things I do.” The woman replied. “I miss the trill of the lark but not the screech of the crow. I miss the sound of cows lowing but not the bleating of sheep. The chatter and gossip of busybodies, the curses and taunts of bullies, and the fawning flattery of sycophants I am pleased I no longer hear. I miss hearing truth spoken in due season but do not miss the easy lie. But above all, I miss the sound of my brother’s voice. If there is anything I could give to hear his music, his tales, and his laughter, I would. And what about you? If you suddenly found yourself in a world of silence, what would you miss?”

The girl thought about it and then laughed. “I think that I, too, would not miss the bleating of sheep. I wonder why that is. Certainly in the sheep’s opinion, they have a right to express their sheepish thoughts. Their peculiar noises are no doubt pleasing to other sheep. But sometimes they go about it so relentlessly. Perhaps that is why I do not care for the sound; the bleating of sheep reminds me of people that make noise just to hear the sound of their own voice. That is a sound I would gladly forego. However, I would miss the sound of a friend’s voice. The kind word, the tender endearment–these are pearls beyond price, even if the cost means having to listen to the bleating of sheep, both animal and human.”

The girl and the woman surveyed the pastoral scene before them in contentment. At length, the girl turned to the woman. “Not everything needs a spoken word; nonetheless, I am very glad that you allowed me to hear your voice. Thank you, Merion.”

My mother is coming to visit today. She can no longer see well enough to read and write; I can no longer hear will enough to understand what she says. We will have to create another way to communicate. I trust that Love will find a way beyond the written or spoken word. I will bring my mother to the sunlit side of the ship, and together we will taste the salt air, smell the briny water, and feel the wind in our faces.


Titled, Untitled, Entitled


The bull moose raised his massive head and surveyed his surroundings. Although he had only arrived yesterday, he was already acting like he was in charge.

“Listen up, all you dumb animals,” he bellowed. “This place is a mess; it’s a disgrace to the animal world. Well, there’s a new sheriff in town and I’m going to fix it!”

The other animals paused in the work, looked at the moose, and then at each other. After a few seconds, they went back to their business.

“I said, I’m the new sheriff,” the moose began.

“Excuse me,” interrupted a deer, “but we don’t understand the word ‘sheriff.’ Is that your name?”

“Sheriff! Sheriff, you idiot! You know, chief, ruler, tsar, king, head honcho!”

The deer shook her head and turned to the other animals.

“Do any of you what these words mean?” she asked. When no one answered, she shrugged her shoulders at the moose.

“Sorry but your words are alien to us. However, if you want to be called Sheriff, that is just fine. We have a Sharif here; perhaps you two could get acquainted.”

The bull moose stamped his feet.

“Sheriff is not a name– it’s a title. My name is Greg and my title is sheriff. You do know what a title is; or is that word alien, too.”

“Oh, no, we are familiar with titles,” said the deer. “For example, my title is Greeter; my job is to greet every newcomer. Welcome, Greg, to our little community. We look forward to getting to know you and to working with you. Now as soon as you tell us what Sheriff does, we will set you up so that you can do whatever is it you do.”

“What do you mean what I do!” the moose roared, his chest heaving. “I DON’T DO ANYTHING! I TELL OTHERS WHAT TO DO! MY TITLE IS SHERIFF! GOT THAT?”

“My, my, you do have a temper, don’t you?” said the deer. “If you want to tell others what to do, that can be arranged also. For example, Nora over there is great with woodworking. If anyone wants to know how to work with wood, they go to Nora and she tells them what to do. So if you will just tell us what you do, we will let everyone know so that if anyone wants to learn how to do whatever it is you do, then they will come to you and you can tell them.”

The deer beamed.

“It’s very simple really.”

At these words, the bull moose became quite incoherent. He stormed; he raged; he flung curses to the sky.  In the meantime, the deer held a quick conference with the other animals.

“He seems to be having a hard time sheriffing,” said the beaver, “whatever that is.”

“Perhaps we should recommend that he give up the title,” suggested the ibex. “Not everyone around here has to have a title–he could be Untitled Greg.”

“Oh, no, I think the title is very important to him, “ said the deer. “The problem is that he wants to be called Sheriff and we haven’t a clue of what that is.” She looked over at the moose.


“Definitely he needs a title. Let’s see. He can’t articulate what he can do; he says that he does nothing and that he tells others what to do. What title lends itself to that?”

“I know, I know,” said the bear. “Let’s call him Entitled.”

“Hmm…Entitled,” said the deer. “You know, I think that will work.”

So the other animals gave Greg the title of Entitled. At first he did not like it, but the deer recruited a group of volunteers who, once a month, went to the bull moose and asked him to give a speech.  This turned out to be an equitable arrangement. The bull moose was kept busy writing and giving speeches, and the other animals could go about their business.


This is a flash fiction from Terrible Minds. It was inspired by “Li’l Abner”, Star Trek, and Cabela’s.


Erasmus ~ “Folly”


erasmusDesiderius Erasmus’ (1466?–1536) birth and early childhood in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, are somewhat obscure. It is generally believed that his father was Roger Gerard of Gouda. His mother was the widowed daughter of a physician. His parents were never married as Gerard was probably already in orders when Erasmus was born. From age nine to nineteen, Erasmus was at St. Lebuin School in Deventer under the tutelage of the Brethren of the Common Life. This and his later friendship with John Colet and Thomas More influenced his theology and his writings. He is considered the foremost Christian humanist of the Renaissance. Erasmus is best known for writing a new edition of The New Testament and also for The Praise of Folly and The Complaint of Peace.

The following is an excerpt from The Praise of Folly.


Folly speaks:

I have no use for the so-called wise persons who say that it is absolutely stupid and insolent for a person to praise himself. Let them say it is foolish if they wish, but let them admit that it is proper; for what is more suitable than that Folly be the trumpeter of her own praises and “blow her own horn.” Who can better describe me than myself?   Unless by chance someone knows me better than I do myself.

Besides, I do not think I am doing anything more shameless than that which many of our best citizens and scholars are continually doing. With a certain perverse modesty, they employ for a fee flattering speakers or vaunting poets from whose lips they listen to their own praises, which are nothing but pure lies. The blushing listener shows his feathers and spreads his plumes like a peacock while the brazen flatter compares this good-for-nothing to the gods and proposes him as a paragon of all virtues. He himself knows, of course, that he is twice infinitely away from being such a person.

My eulogy will be extemporaneous and simple, and for that very reason it will be so much the more true. I would not want you to think that is was composed to show forth my genius as is the case with the common run of orators. For they, as you know, work on a speech as much as thirty years, if it is theirs at all, and then swear they wrote it in three day or even that they dictated it.

On my part, however, I have always found it more agreeable simply to state what is on the tip of my tongue. Also, let no one expect me to explain by definition or even less by division as is the custom of common rhetoricians. For it is inauspicious to put limits on her whose influence is so widely spread, or to divide her whom all of nature has united in worshipping. Besides, what point is there for me to make a shadowy sketch of myself when you can all see me with your own eyes? I am as you see me, that true bestower of all good things.


I hope you enjoyed reading this writing excerpt from a favorite author.  I’m curious what you think of Erasmus. What about you? What do you think about Erasmus’ essay on folly?

What’s Left is Right

“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:10 NKJV

Our country is polarized right now and has been for several years. People have been trying to transform left and right viewpoints into “either-or” politics. It’s not working. Different viewpoints are not supposed to be mutually exclusive; in fact, both are necessary in order for either to survive. Fortunately there are people who recognize this and are writing about it: Chris Satullo “Polite Politics: Five Road-Tested Rules for Talking with the Other Side” and James R. Neal “Our Own Worst Enemy.”   I would like to add my own solitary voice to those advocating mutual respect, understanding, and collaboration.

Conservative and Liberal: We need both to function as a society. From Webster’s dictionary © 1980, we have the following definitions:

Conservative: disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., and to agree with gradual rather than abrupt change; to favor moderate progressivism; one who conserves (i.e., to keep from loss, decay, waste, or injury); to favor official supervision of rivers, forests, and other natural resources.

Liberal: favorable to progress or reform, as in religious or political affairs; of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies or monarchies; favorable to concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties; free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant; open-minded.

Based on these definitions, I am a conservative liberal and a liberal conservative. I have a right side and a left side who work well together. My left brain collaborates with my right brain to create all sorts of amazing things for me to think about. Without those two, I would be very bored and restless and would probably get into all sorts of trouble.

When I want to write something, my right hand does the heavy lifting at first, while my left hand holds the paper steady. When it’s time to transfer my written thoughts to my computer, both hands work in harmony on the keyboard. You go, hands!

Speaking of words, I need both my “yes” and my “no,” my “up” and my “down,” my “hello” and “goodbye.” How frustrating it would be to communicate if I did not a have choice of saying either one or the other, at any given time, and in any particular situation.

Justice and mercy are not mutually exclusive; they, too, work best when they work together. I need them both if I am going to function as a contributing member of society. I think we all do.