Sneaking Snacks

Millais-Children's Tea

“You brought a snack?” he asked, his expression incredulous as he took an involuntary step forward.

Edward snarled even more ferociously, harshly, his lip curling high above his glistening, bared teeth. Laurent stepped back again.

Stephenie Meyer ~ Twlight

In the novel, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, the demon Screwtape goes on a rant about God to his nephew.

“He’s vulgar, Wormword. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working.”

I include snacking in that list of pleasures. There is something so innocent, so inconsequential in snack time, that although God might allow it, most authors do not. Snacking in the literary world is rare. It’s one of those things that happen between the lines in a character’s life; it is typically excluded from a story, except to advance the plot, as in the example from Twilight. In that scene, the suggestion of a snack is used to increase tension and build drama. But there is no actual snack.

Snacking is sadly lacking in fiction, (love that alliteration!) and I have a theory why. If more people took time out of their day to snack, they would not be half so grouchy, and there would go all the conflict. I sometimes think that all that villains need to distract them from world domination is bag of chips. Imagine Sauron rummaging through the cupboards in the Dark Tower for some Lays and having found them, sitting in his favorite chair with a good book for an hour. His having a little snack everyday might have saved Frodo a lot of trouble.

By the way, teatime doesn’t count. In the literary world of writers such as Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Agatha Christie, and Edith Wharton, teatime was always fraught with drama. Mr. Darcy retained every bit of his pride over a cup of cup.

In her book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Gloria Steinem wrote a great essay on the politics of food, in which she analyzed the social compacts different cultures have adopted concerning food and the ritual of eating. There are similar compacts in novels. Food and eating rituals, whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner, or supper, are all part of the plot. There is no unauthorized eating in fiction. Every time someone eats, it serves a purpose. I think that is why there is such a dearth of snacks in novels. Snacks are just to “snacky” to be taken seriously.

(Note to self: I think that sometimes characters sneak off to have a snack when their writers aren’t looking—they are called “snucks.”)

Daily Prompt: Snack

Advertisements

Bear Magnet

Bear

Eleanor knew what she was getting into with Roddy. She knew that bears are solitary creatures, coming together only for the mating season. She also knew that Roddy in particular was a bear magnet.

Every spring it was the same. Females from all over the county made their way to her territory for a chance at Roddy. No puffery displays from him! She knew that everybody wanted Roddy and that Roddy knew it.

Eleanor also knew that Roddy hated clingy females so she hid her feelings behind a mask of indifference. Roddy had no idea how she burned with jealousy. Jealousy! Heaven forbid that Roddy should ever suspect her of that most clingy and hated emotion.

But Eleanor also knew where the hunters were camped, and if she “accidentally” led them to his den, then she would have a mate for life. Roddy did not know that.

Daily Prompt: Magnet

Master Coenred

(Rhino-Between-the-Lines)

Then the great old, young, beautiful princess turned to Curdie.

“Now, Curdie, are you ready?” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Curdie.

“You do not know what for.”

“You do, Ma’am. That is enough.”

George MacDonald ~ The Princess and Curdie

London

“Look, Skandar!” Amalia said. “It’s a sunny day. That means we can go visit Master Coenred and his blacksmith.”

“Who is Master Coenred,” asked Skandar, “and what does he have to do with a sunny day?”

“Master Coenred is a magnificent rooster. He is amazingly tall and thin, with a sweeping black plume for a tail and a red comb. His feathers are bluish-black, laced with a sort of dark orange color, like the sunset. Egric is his blacksmith.”

“What do you mean ‘his blacksmith’? How can a rooster own a blacksmith?”

“I’m not entirely sure of the arrangement, having never read the contract,” said Amalia, “but Egric has assured me on more than one occasion that he belongs to Master Coenred.”

When they arrived at the blacksmith’s workshop, Amalia introduced Skandar to Egric and Master Coenred. The latter was indeed a notable rooster. Egric assured Amalia and Skandar that Master Coenred was pleased by their visit.

“Is it because it’s a sunny day?” asked Skandar.

“Yes, it is,” said Egric. “Sunny days are the only days Master Coenred doesn’t crow so he catches a few more winks of sleep. It makes him more sociable, if you know what I mean.”

“Why doesn’t he crow on sunny days?” asked Skandar.

“Well, the truth is Master Coenred fancies himself a better blacksmith than me, and it smokes his toast for me to do anything at the forge without his supervision. He doesn’t crow on sunny days because he doesn’t want to wake me. Since I fancy a few more winks of sleep myself, I go along with him.”

“That means he only crows on cloudy days,” said Amalia.

“But what about people that don’t want to sleep late?” said Skandar. “When we walked through the village this morning, there were all sorts of people out and about. Who wakes them up?”

“If it’s a sunny day, then the sun does the job,” said Egric. “Master Coenred doesn’t want to supervise everybody; he has enough to do managing my life. It’s only on cloudy days, that he gives them a little extra help. Otherwise, he assumes anyone with an ounce of wit can determine that the sun is up, and the day has begun.”

“Master Coenred is a very strict about interfering in anyone’s life—except Egric’s, of course,” said Amalia. “He’s really a rather remarkable bird.”

“I’ll say,” said Skandar. “He could give lessons to people on when and where to crow, especially on sunny days.”

Daily Prompt:Sunny

Clark and the Paddle Wheel

Miro-The Farm

“Hello, Carl,” said Mole. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”

“Yes, it is,” said Clark, “and, by the way, my name is Clark.”

“Clark! I thought it was Carl.”

“Well, it thought it was too, but I made a mistake.”

“If your name is Clark, how you mistake it for Carl? Don’t you know your own name?”

Clark shrugged his shoulders.

“I was distracted. I’m working on a problem for Little Troll. You see, he wants to ride around the paddle wheel at the mill, but he’s afraid of heights. I’m going to figure out the maximum height of the wheel for him. That way he can decide whether or not he wants to ride the wheel based on data.”

“Huh?”

“Come now, Mole, don’t be so triangular. It’s just a simple sinusoidal function. Here, you can help me; hold this timer.”

Clark, the cat formerly known as Carl, placed a funnel-shaped object into Mole’s paws. It was filled with liquid. Mole sniffed it cautiously. Then he tasted it.

“Not bad,” he said. “What’s in here?”

“Wine,” said Clark. “Now, when I say go, start counting the drops of wine that drip from the bottom of the funnel. Ready? Go!”

Mole started counting the drops of wine.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.”

“STOP!” shouted Clark.

He came over to Mole, looking very pleased.

“This is great!” he said. “Now I can figure out the maximum height of the paddle wheel for Little Troll. I have been trying to do this myself all morning, but I just couldn’t count the wine drops and watch the paddle wheel at the same time.”

“Er, what do you do with the leftover wine?” asked Mole.

“Oh, I drink it,” said Clark.

“And you’ve been doing this all morning?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“I think I figured out why you forgot your name.”

Daily Prompt: Wheel

I, The People

“Aunt,” Amalia asked, “why are we so ignorant?”

Beatrice paused in her work and looked at her niece.

“Well, now,” she said, “that is a rather unexpected question. Before I attempt an answer, please tell me who is ‘we’ and why is ‘we’ ignorant?”

Amalia waved her hands in a circle.

“We, all of us—me, you, Uncle Hosten, Father, Mother, Aunt Beryl, Lammett, Finn—you know, all of us.”

The Book of Rhino

Amalia’s reasoning is an example of taking something that is local and making it global. I have observed that this phenomenon occurs frequently among humans. It is inductive reasoning taken to the extreme.

Parrish-Society

“I think, therefore, I am—and so does everybody else.”

The globalization of a local issue is done by the pernicious use of the word “we.”

“We all make mistakes.”

“We are none of us perfect.”

“We are poor little lambs who have lost our way. Baa, baa, bah.”

It’s as if a local mistake, defect, or character flaw must not be confined to one person. It must be expanded to include everybody. I suppose some things are too painful to bear alone, so people drag others into that lonely place by the word “we.”

The ubiquitous use of the word “we” is especially evident in politics where things are done because we, the American people, want it. Well, I am an American people and do not want a lot of things that I’m told I do. The current debate on health care is a classic example of local gone global.

The phrase “the America people” is invoked like a religious mantra. It used to justify almost all legislation, good and bad. What’s ironic is that when global legislation is dissected, it turns out to be local after all, written for the benefit of a select group of people. The majority of “we, the people” are shunted aside, their collective name having served its purpose.

I do not know what anyone else thinks about it, but I (local) do not like being used in a collective “we” (global) without my permission. Whenever I hear or read that “we” think, feel, or act in a certain way, my “I” stands up in defiance. I refuse to be a “we” unless my “I” makes that choice.

When I was in junior high, I read the novel Anthem by Ayn Rand. The main character, Equality, resonated with me, and when he discovered his “I”, I cheered. I still do. But that’s just little, local me. But I do wonder of there are others out there with whom I can be We.

Daily Prompt: Local

Satisfactory Non-Illusion

Parrish-Amalia

Sometimes the Daily Prompt is a word that is on my mind. Like today. I have been thinking about the concept of illusion, as in I have no illusions of my book being a best seller. I was just hoping it would be a satisfying read for those in search of a good book. It seems I have met that goal.

A friend of my sister-in-law who is reading The Book of Rhino told her she is enjoying it immensely. She called it “enchanting.” I am so pleased. Other people have said similar positive things. To write something that people enjoy reading is deeply gratifying.

It also pleases me that I have received six positive reviews of my book on Amazon. I know that, relatively speaking, it’s not a lot, but then, I had no illusions that it would be otherwise.

Alfred North Whitehead wrote: “A writer really writes for an audience of about ten persons. Of course, if others like it, that is clear gain. But if those ten are satisfied, he is content.”

I have my ten persons; actually, I have more than ten persons, so I am more than satisfied. That is no illusion.

And now, because this is my blog and I want to, I am going to include the reviews my book has received. So if anyone is not interested, he or she can stop reading now.

The Book of Rhino Reviews on Amazon

May 4, 2017 ~ Four Stars

FOUR STARS TO YOU MRS. HART!!! Although I would consider this book definitely for young adults of which I am not, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is of a period in history I love reading about. You have captured the personality of each character so well, they simply come alive. It is a charming, imaginative, and also funny tale. I am hoping for another book soon, I see the ending is certainty set up for it, keep it going. I have recommended it to a friend who is an avid reader of anything in the line of the unreal world.

May 6, 2017 ~ Four Stars

Got Historical Fantasy If You Want It

I was eager to get this first novel by author S. M. Hart, because I had been reading teaser information from the author for several weeks in advance of the print release. I picked up the Kindle edition for my own reading. I am halfway into the book and these are my impressions so far.

The story concept is intriguing and relatively unique (to me). I don’t read fantasy often, generally avoiding books that employ supernatural “powers” controlled by the characters. At 70 years of age, I have yet to encounter someone endowed with such powers, and I don’t expect to in this life. However, these phenomena seem to be downplayed in The Book of Rhino, and there are no mythological creatures (another annoyance in the fantasy genre). Hart has confined herself to minimal fantasy elements. The work feels like an apologist’s perspective on Druidic or Wiccan culture in ancient England, following an alternative history that is partially conjoined with some Arthurian time-period material. Character names combine Anglo-Saxon and Middle English forms. Places, while they have actual English place-names, seem overly idyllic but are not described in great detail. The focus is not geology. Christian (Catholic) clergy members are actively trying to woo “pagan” villagers into their fold, with perhaps more recognized official authority than the pagans seem to have, but the entire society is organized by a pagan structure implemented long before the time of the story.

The eponymous character, Rhino, has not been a prominent feature of the first half of the book, but is being groomed in the background to become King of the country. Occasionally, he moves into the foreground of the story. His general absence from so much of the first half of the book, while a countryside of other characters is being introduced, leads me to believe that this is the first book in a planned series. His name interests me. It is etymologically incongruous in the midst of all the Anglo-Saxon and Middle English names, suggesting that this character is special in ways yet to be revealed. A conventionally gifted character, so far, in terms of precocity, strength of will, personal traits, etc., Rhino has had few opportunities to show himself admirable. At the beginning of the story, he is overly ambitious and vain. When he enters his training period, he adopts a wiser, more diplomatic persona as an expediency. He seems to be “not of this world,” or at least Machiavellian. Consider that, after all, “rhinoceros” is the Greek equivalent of the Latin “unicorn.” Perhaps the character “Rhino” is another real-world embodiment of a mythological idea. Perhaps the remainder of the book will reveal this! Other characters (and there are many) are being developed well through interaction and some direct character-building.
May 23, 2017 ~ Four Stars

A friend recommended that I would enjoy THE BOOK OF RHINO

A friend recommended that I would enjoy THE BOOK OF RHINO…she knows me well…I do love magic woven into a story.
Ms Hart impressed me with the fictional story that she was able to spin from her research of this time period.
Very enjoyable. 🙂

June 3, 2017 ~ Five Stars

Good Book

This book was a superb read. For anyone interested in what a historical England atmosphere would’ve been like this is for you. Religious tolerance tward pagan magic, Young men metimoprhisozing into kings and the daily struggles of working class people were very well intertwined in this masterpiece. The author makes an irisistable read throughout that flows extremely well. It’s a welcome book for all ages and something I will read again in the future.

June 8, 2017 ~ Five Stars

Great Scott, it’s a great story!

I enjoy a good adventure story and found this one to be excellent. As I quickly became caught up in the story, I found the book difficult to put down. The author did a good job of developing a wide array of characters and also created rich interplay between characters. The story follows young Rhino and his friends as they grow individually and as a group, while nefarious forces are at play in the background. I highly recommend this book to other adventure story enthusiasts

June 21, 2017 ~ Five Stars

Captivating Adventure…Enjoy the Journey!

If you read a novel this year may I highly recommend “The Book of Rhino” by SM Hart! You won’t be disappointed for it is a classic coming of age story… youthful pride, big dreams and high aspirations pitted against the realities of life…joys for sure, but disappointment, betrayal, good vs evil, forgiveness and redemption. As in all great stories the characters take time to develop and in so doing you become attached to each one and the part they play in this imaginative journey. You’ll be captivated by the twists and turns of the ever deepening plot. So grab a glass of lemonade, settle in to a comfy chair and let yourself be taken on a fanciful journey into another time and place!!!

Daily Prompt: Illusion

Being a Five

Korin-Underground ManI am a sick man…. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors.

Notes from the Underground ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We all have a narrative about ourselves, a story we tell ourselves which helps us make sense of who we are. In his book Stages of Faith, James Fowler connects each stage in our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development to an evolving personal story. For example, at the Intuitive-Projective stage, infants behave as if they are the center of the universe; that is their subconscious narrative about themselves. However, problems occur when one commits to a particular story about oneself—even when the story is no longer valid, even when the story is destructive.

The Underground Man in Dostoyevsky’s novel is committed to a narrative about himself that involves him in acute despair and heartache. Yet he will not abandon his beliefs.

The more conscious I was of goodness and of all that was “sublime and beautiful”, the more deeply I sank into my mire and the more ready I was to sink in it altogether. But the chief point was that all this was, as it were, not accidental in me, but as though it were bound to be so.

The Underground Man attributes his condition to a “great deal of consciousness.” But that is a red herring. The real issue is his commitment to his story at any cost. He has just enough self-awareness to recognize his perversity, but not enough to grow beyond it. He knows what he knows about himself and will not be persuaded otherwise.

As I move through my own stages of faith, I have learned to enjoy my personal story. But I hold it lightly because it has changed over time and will continue to change. I have learned that I can show my gratitude for the gift of thinking—of consciousness—by changing my mind once in a while.

The Underground Man states 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.”

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.)

According to the Enneagram, I am also a Five. I find that charming; it makes for a good story. But I am not committed to it.

Daily Prompt: Commit

Brain Loops

the_infinite_road

(Excerpt from Rhino’s journal)

Recently in Sunday school class, the teacher began the lesson with a music video of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It was sung a cappella by a group of five young men who call themselves Home Free. The song was beautifully sung, and the video was beautifully filmed. There was just one tiny distraction–one of the singers looked like Sirius Black (Harry Potter’s godfather.)

I could have dismissed this silly thought except another one crept in. I remembered that Harry read an article about Sirius Black in a wizard gossip magazine called The Quibbler. The news article claimed that Sirius Black was actually Stubby Boatman, the lead singer of a group called The Hobgoblins. All this is going through my head while I am sitting in Sunday school watching a music video of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

This is an example of what it’s like living with my brain. My brain has a mind of its own and insists on thinking its own thoughts. It is so self-willed that it wakes me up during the night–when I would rather be sleeping–and wanders about, poking its nose into all sorts of things. What does one do with an untamed brain!

The sad irony is I have made my brain this way. I have carefully nurtured it, fed it, exposed it to life’s experiences, and have allowed it to grow up unfettered by hidebound thinking. I could not bear to shackle its free-range curiosity and encouraged its loops around a Mobius strip. Now I wonder…have I created a monster?

If so, I am responsible for it. I must embrace my brain and love it for what it is and allow it to love me in its own unique way, even it that means I am inundated with strange thoughts during Sunday school or at three o’clock in the morning.

Therefore, despite my occasional grousing, I am thankful that my brain has developed into the thinker that it is. I would not have it any other way. And what do I get in return? Just this: I can sit down at any time and write; all I have to do is draw from the reservoir of ideas that my brain keeps so thoughtfully filled.

Daily Prompt: Loop

The Girdle Effect

“CAUTION, HOT. BUT YOU’RE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT.”

I don’t know who is more relieved, me or my coffee cup. Me, that my coffee cup knows that I’m smart or my coffee cup, that I am smart enough to know the coffee it contains is hot.

The statement cracks me up. It is a great example of a company wanting to protect itself against a possible lawsuit should someone get burned by hot coffee. Thus it prints a warning on every coffee cup it sells. On the other hand, the warning must not offend a person’s intelligence; that could instigate another lawsuit.

In a subtle way, a warning like this relieves people of having to think. It’s the “Girdle Effect” that my father used to talk about.

When I was in junior high, my father would not allow me to wear a “junior” girdle.  He said that if I allowed a girdle to hold in my stomach, then eventually my stomach muscles would grow weak from underuse.  “Use it or lose it,” he used to say.

Last year, I read in a news article that a city in Germany imbedded red lights in the sidewalk to warn people who were WUIP  (Walking Under the Influence of Phone). The purpose of the red lights was to relieve people of the tiresome chore of watching where they were going.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/36153741/german-city-puts-traffic-lights-on-pavements-for-smartphone-users

The Girdle Effect is an example of “choice architecture” described by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein in their book Nudge.  In it, they advocate organizing the context in which people make decisions so that their eventual choices will secure greater health, wealth, and happiness.  But it begs the question of what is good and who decides it.

If social engineers relieve people of their decision-making, then how will they learn to make decisions that require reflective, critical thinking?  If mistakes are to be avoided at all costs, then we eliminate the learning that only comes from mistakes.  It’s the Girdle Effect.

Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found ten thousand ways that don’t work.” As appreciative as I am that my coffee cup wants to warn me about hot coffee, I would rather learn that lesson myself, even if I get burned.

Daily Prompt: Relieved

Blossom Trail

Blossom Trail

The first year in our home, we planted four fruit trees–two peach (white and yellow) and two nectarine (white and yellow.) We loved those little guys! Year after year they produced delicious fruit. There was always such an abundance of peaches and nectarines, we could give plenty away to friends and neighbors. Then the fruit diminished in size and quantity. It was time for the trees to go.

Here in the valley, it is a common site to see fruit trees uprooted and orchards replanted. Even thought I know it’s the nature of things, I always feel a tinge of sadness whenever I see it; I try to drive by reverently with my shoes symbolically off my feet because this is holy ground.

Thus when the day came to say goodbye to our old trees, I stood barefoot in the backyard. In the novel Atlas Shrugged, Eddie describes his impression of a large tree on the Taggart estate. He imagines that if a giant pulled it up, it would swing the Earth around. For some reason, I thought our trees’ roots were be similarly imbedded. I anticipated shrieks and groans as they were pulled protesting from the ground.

Instead, they sort of plopped over with one tug. I guess they were tired.

Daily Prompt: Blossom