William Butler Yeats ~ Jean Corot


Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep woods woven shame

And dance upon the level shore?

Young man, lift up your russet brow
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fears no more.
And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;

For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

William Butler Yeats ~ Who Goes with Fergus? 1893

(Painting by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot)


Fear of Hiccups

Ivan-Wild Waves R

My sister asked me to write a blog on the Fear of Hiccups. This is not a fear of the uncomfortable physical sensation of “an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm and respiratory organs, with a sudden closure of the glottis and a characteristic sound like that of a cough.”  Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The hiccups to which she is referring, the fear-striking kind, are the things that, according to Robert Burns make “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.” (Translation: Go oft awry.)

A hiccup is a glitch that makes the best-laid plans go all gangly. Deb was fearful of hiccups in coordinating plans to attend Michael and Nicole’s wedding in Connecticut, which involved flying Mom from Colorado, Madison from Ireland, and Claire, John, and herself from Seattle (at two different times to accommodate work schedules.) There were a couple of flight hiccups,  but Deb managed to work them out. Nonetheless it was a fearful time.

That’s the thing about being an organized person, the type that knows how to best lay plans—there is alway the fear of hiccups. They hang over those lovely plans like Damocles’ sword, threatening the slash, cut, burn, hack, and raise all sorts of gangly havoc.

I, too, make plans, and like Deb, have a respectful fear of hiccups. Like the ocean, one does not dismiss them or ignore their power or swim around mindlessly (like the girl in Jaws.)

I recently coordinated a move from one house to another. If there was a situation fraught with hiccupery, this was it. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle inching slowly towards one another, everything had to be carefully orchestrated. There were a couple of hiccups (the tile guy’s truck breaking down was a rather large one), but otherwise the pieces came together. Our sofa and loveseat have not yet arrived—they are missing pieces of the puzzle.

One of the interesting things about hiccups, besides their unexpected disruption, is the time interval in which they occur. In the case of Deb’s flight schedules or our recent move, it was a matter of weeks. However, a hiccup can occur over the span of years, or even a lifetime, altering everything.

Jack and I wanted to attend the wedding; we started to plan for it, but a hiccup called “cancer” changed our plans. Cancer changed a lot of plans. There are other plans it will probably change that I know not of right now. The hiccups are lurking out there, waiting to go all gangly on me.

So what do you do with hiccups? I don’t mind fearing them; that’s the sensible thing to do, but I refuse to be afraid of them. The difference is that the former means making those best-laid plans with a measure of flexibility; the latter means not making any plans at all in order to avoid disappointment. (“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick” and all that stuff.)

A respectful fear means I will still swim in the ocean, knowing how to hold my breath when a high roller knocks me off my feet. It also means I don’t go swimming alone naked in the moonlight. I still “run my heedless ways”, but not all that heedlessly.

Last week I got knocked about a bit, knowing that all my family was gathered together on the East coast while I was here on the West coast. I had to hold my breath for a while, which happens to be one way to cure the hiccups.

Clark and The Hunger Games


Clark is an unusually perceptive cat. Thus it did not take him more than a few seconds to discern that his friend Buttercup was distracted. Buttercup’s nose was a little more squashed and his fur a little more rumpled than usual. His hurtling headlong into a bush was a dead giveaway.

“Buttercup!” Clark yelled. “Watch out! What is the matter with you? Is something amiss?”

Buttercup extricated himself from the bush.

“Oh, you noticed, did you?” he said. “Well, I’ll tell you. It’s this book I’m reading. The Hunger Games. There’s something about it that…that…well, I just don’t know. It’s not the killing, the lottery, and all that; I mean, I know it’s a work of fiction. It’s something else.

Clark shook his head and scratched his left ear.

“I’m sorry, but I have no clue what you are talking about. Please explain.”

For the next several minutes Buttercup told Clark all about Panem with its twelve districts ruled by the Capitol. He described the war and its outcome, including the Hunger Games held every year for the last seventy-four years. He shivered as he explained the rules of the Hunger Games and the tribute lottery. When he was done, Clark thoughtfully coughed up a hairball.

“So you’re saying that the names of all boys and girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen go into two bowls, and whosever names are drawn from each bowl participate in these Hunger Games?”

“That is correct.”

“How large are these bowls?”

“Oh, I would say about the size of a large fish bowl.”

“And the name cards?”

“I imagine about an inch and a half. Why do you ask?”

Clark made no response; instead, he whipped out his calculator and jotted a few numbers on a piece of paper. After a few minutes, he looked at Buttercup.

“My friend, I think I figured out your problem. The fantasy you are reading is too unrealistic.


“See here,” said Clark. “A large fish bowl is ten inches wide; a sphere with a radius of five inches has a volume of 523.6 cubic inches. Each name card has a volume of 0.28125 cubic inches, which means that each bowl could hold 147 names. Multiply that by two, and you have 294 children between the ages of twelve and eighteen years of age.”

“Okay, I get that. So what?”

“In a normal distribution, that age group is about 7.8% of the population, giving you a maximum population of 3,782 humans in District Twelve.”

Buttercup looked puzzled.

“I still don’t understand,” he said.

“Look,” said Clark. “In a given human population, the workforce comprises about 62.4%, which means there are about 2, 360 humans working in the coal mines. See the problem? You are trying to wrap your brain around the idea that approximately 2, 400 adults are supplying the coal for an entire country? Come now, Buttercup. Surely the illogic of that must have occurred to you.”


“No buts about it, B.C. The mind can process only so much fantasy before it wobbles.”

“But…but…after all, the book is a fantasy. You’re not supposed to believe it.”

“That’s true. But every book, however fanciful, has to be grounded in some elemental reality to make it believable. Your problem is your mind is trying to make unsupportable allowances for unreality.”

Clark flicked his tail.

“I have found that there is always some measure of real-life unreality posing as real; right now, there seems to be an excess of it. I recommend you give your brain a rest now and then and read books that are real. Why participate in someone else’s unreality if you don’t have to?”

The Writing Process ~ Creating One-Dimensional Characters



“Complicated rules to adjust behavior are a weak substitute for simple principles.”
Mary Wollstonecraft ~ A Vindication of the Rights of Women

One of my ten “persons” is currently reading the manuscript for the second Book of Rhino. He recently wrote me that (1) he is enjoying this book more than the first one and (2) Father Caril, the obvious villain, seems too one-dimensional. I was pleased by both comments. I am glad he is enjoying the book; I mean, that’s the point—he is one of the ten people for whom I write.

I was also pleased that he sees Father Caril as one-dimensional because that is how I wrote his character. In order to ensure that Father Caril walks in his own darkness, I could not make him complex. He is cunning, conniving, even complicated, but he is not complex. If he were, if he had any true knowledge of self, then he would not be a villain. In order for his character to behave the way he needs to, I had to keep Father Caril at the Mythic-Literal stage of faith.

(Note to self: I feel badly about this; no one should have to languish in the prison of their own fear and ignorance. But what can I do? Father Caril must come to enlightenment in his own time and on his own terms. I can’t force it on him.)

The funny thing about villains is the common perception that they are deepyboo. They’re not. They are one-dimensional creatures focused on one goal, usually involving their getting more power, money, sex, etc. than they need or deserve. They are not that difficult to create; all one needs to do is (a) decide what it is they want and (b) have them go for it. The great thing about their single-mindedness is that there are no ethical barriers to inhibit their behavior. If they make a stab at morality at all, it is always in their own self-interest.

I am reminded of what C. S. Lewis wrote about The Screwtape Letters. A reader once asked him why he did not write a sequel or a series of Screwtape books. He answered that it was too easy for him to think diabolically, and that disturbed him.

Another funny thing about villains is the common opinion among actors that they are more interesting to portray. I am going to have to think about that. Hmm…are there any interesting villains I have seen on stage, screen, or television? I can’t recall any right now. Perhaps they do exist, but I can think of any at the moment.

At any rate, I will be on the lookout for multi-dimensional, complex villains. My curiosity is aroused.

The Revelation ~ Chapter Five


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

“I am not going to tell a lie. I am just looking for a way to tell the truth.”
The Book of Rhino

Quote Challenge ~ “Mellifluous”


A new WOTD from a new source: Mellifluous from Cyranny’s Cove.  I have just moved into a new home so all my books are in boxes. It took me a while to find the book that would provide a quote on the WOTD, but I got it. After much huntering and gathering, I found the word in my old reliable friend, Anthony Trollope. In the scene below, a rich widow has been accused of absconding with the family jewels.

It must be owned that poor Lizzie did receive from Mr. Benjamin’s hands some of that punishment which she certainly deserved. This acute and learned gentleman seemed to possess for the occasion the blandest and most dulcet voice that was ever bestowed upon an English barrister. He addressed Lady Eustace with the softest words, as though he hardly dared to speak to a woman so eminent for wealth, rank, and beauty; but nevertheless he asked her some very disagreeable questions.

“Was he to understand that she went of her own will before the bench of the magistrates at Carlisle, with the view of enabling the police to capture certain persons for stealing certain jewels, when she knew that the jewels were in her own possession?”

Lizzie, confounded by the softness of his voice joined to the harshness of the question, could hardly understand him, and he repeated it thrice, becoming more and more mellifluous.

“Yes, said Lizzie at last.

Anthony Trollope ~ Can You Forgive Her?

It’s popular in movies and television to show lawyers going after people on the witness stand, busting their chops in all manner of righteous indignation. It’s become so formulaic (“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”) that a little mellow cross-examining is practically unheard-of. But wouldn’t that be refreshing for once?