How Deepeeboo


“Alright, Wilfred, it’s your turn to recite,” said Rhino. “What masterpiece have you created?”

“Hullo!” said Wilfred. “Master Altman said nothing about a masterpiece. He only said we have to write something worth sayin’ out loud. Well, I got my somethin’ and I’m sayin’ it out loud.”

Wilfred stood in front of the group with his hands behind his back.

“This must be serious,” said Trevor. “He has assumed the position.”

Ignoring Trevor, Wilfred began to speak.

“What did you learn today, my son?

I learned five things and remembered none.

And what five things did you forget?

That dust is dry, and water’s wet.

The moon is cold, the sun is hot;

There’s one more thing, but I forgot.”


“Wilfred,” said Skandar. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“That’s because it is deep,” said Wilfred.

Daily Prompt:Recite

Literary Mothers


My mother felt that something was wrong, and displayed a lot of sympathy, which tortured me because I couldn’t repay her with my confidence. One evening when I was already in bed she brought me a piece of chocolate. She asked what was wrong with me, and stroked my hair. I could merely blurt out: “No! No! I don’t want anything.” She put the chocolate on the night table and left.

Emil Sinclair in Demian by Hermann Hesse

The problem with Sinclair’s mother is the same with many literary mothers—they are shallow. They are one-dimensional saints, sinners, or shadows.

Why is that with literary mothers? Either they are perfectly wise like Marmee in Little Women or they are perfectly silly like Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

Demian’s mother, Frau Eva, is an exalted guru who guides Sinclair on his journey to adulthood; she’s exceedingly deepeeboo, but that is all she is. I had great hopes for Anne Shirley to be a complex, interesting mother; but all motherhood did for her was relegate her to the background, like a beautiful dish of fine china displayed for special occasions.

Perhaps I am mistaken. After all, I haven’t read every book about mothers. However, of the ones I have, mothers do not come off very well. I wonder if mother-characters are a nuisance to create. I’m going to have to explore this issue further. If my premise is that literary mothers are shallow, then I can do them justice by giving the matter a thorough analysis.
Daily Prompt:Shallow

Gateway Books


I was Leviathan with a hook in my jaw, pulled inexorably onward by an unseen angler.

The Book of Rhino

When I read a book by an unfamiliar author that immediately engages my interest, I call it a “gateway book.” By my definition, a gateway book is one that hooks me on a particular writer. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd got me hooked on Agatha Christie; Foundation did the same for me with Isaac Asimov. Once I read that first book, that gateway book, then I chase down other books by the same author.

A gateway book is not necessarily the first book an author has written. For example, in the case of Mary Stewart, her gateway book for me was The Crystal Cave, published in 1970, sixteen years after Madam, Will You Talk?, her first novel. Had the latter been my introduction to Mary Stewart, I would not have pursued the relationship.

I am just about to finish The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. I have a feeling that I have just found a new gateway book.

Some of my other gateway books are:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkein

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse

The Curate’s Awakening by George MacDonald

There is a glaring problem with this list. If you know about these authors, you will see that all of them, except for Philip Pullman, are dead. I’m in the sad situation of being hooked on writers who will not be writing any more books. That’s the danger of reading books by dead authors; if one of their works happens to be a gateway book, your supply of satisfying reads is finite.

I should have known better than to read Maugham—him being dead and all, but that’s the thing about gateway novels. One never knows until the reading deed is done that one has stumbled onto a gateway book. A person may innocently open its pages and find herself unable to put the thing down.

Perhaps there should be warning labels on books by dead authors.

WARNING: This book is known to instantly engross the reader in the story and characters. There is only a limited supply of books by this particular author so read it at your own risk.

In the meantime, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe looks interesting.

Daily Prompt:Gate

Plucking the Unplucked



“A devilish temper she had,” Uncle Andrew would say. “but she was a dem fine woman, sir, a dem fine woman.”

C. S. Lewis ~ The Magician’s Nephew

Skandar felt most comfortable around Wilfred, whose light-heated treatment of life encouraged Skandar to pursue the acquaintance. Thus a few days after the ceremony, Skandar lingered behind at the dining room to talk with Wilfred.

“Say, Wilfred,” he said, “I noticed quite a few of your family at the church, especially the girls. Are they all your sisters?”

Wilfred nodded and rolled his eyes.

“Unfortunately, yes,” he said. “There are far too many of them for my comfort. You don’t have a sister, right? I’ll give you one of mine. You don’t know anything about girls until you’ve struggled through life with a sister.”

“Yes, I do,” said Skandar. “Know about life, I mean. I know a girl—a right plucky one.”

“Well…I suppose that’s alright, if she’s a plucky one. One of my sisters is like that, full of pluck and fire.”

Skandar’s eyes lit up.

“Don’t you love that? Pluck! Why don’t more girls have pluck?”

“I don’t know,” said Wilfred. “I think they—most of ‘em—have the pluck sort of plucked out of them.”

Wilfred lowered his voice.

“Don’t tell the bishop,” he said, “but I think the Church likes women as unplucked as a chicken for the pot.”

Daily Prompt:Pluck

M or N?

The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable—and therefore understood. And there went all my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I simply would not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

Kurt Vonnegut ~ Palm Sunday


I wish to contribute to the cause of effective communication so today’s topic will be the “dash”, as in hyphen, en, or em. There are other types of dashes, bless their hearts, but a short race, a pinch of seasoning, and an action whereby one object is stuck against another will not serve my stated purpose in this context. I am talking about punctuation.

A hyphen (-) is for compound words or adjectives.

Example: Me-generation daffodils are proud of the narcissistic roots. They have never hidden their origin from pale brown-skinned bulbs.

The en-dash (­–) is for a range or span of numbers, to indicate connecting or conflicting adjectives, or for compound adjectives.

Example: As a result, the post me–generation daffodils are reaching maturity without many role models. All they see is it’s all about “me.” Although daffodils range from 5–80 centimeters tall, post me–generational daffodils all expect to reach of a height of at least seventy centimeters.

The em-dash (—) is the longest of the dashes and the most versatile. It can be used in place of a comma, a semicolon, a colon, or a period. Its purpose is to separate a word or phrase for emphasis. It also can be used in place of letters or words.

Example: The Tulip Act—the crowning achievement of the 1968 Bulb Conference—declared that all daffodils are narcissus, no matter what their bulb of origin or their subsequent height. Nevertheless, some of the taller daffodils insist to this day that only yellow daffodils are true jonquils—all others are JINOs. As a member of the Yellow-Only Society recently stated, “The JINOs are just a bunch of posies. All they know is d———g dirt.”

I hope this helps clear up any misunderstanding about the family of dashes. Like any family, they have their good times and bad—especially during the holidays, when the me-generation and the pre and post me–generations all gather together to celebrate their common heritage.

Daily Prompt: Dash

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

Bear Magnet


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

Carl and the Golden Ball

Upon a great adventure he was bond.

That greatest Gloriana to him gave,

That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie Lond,

To winne him worship, and her grace to have.

Edmund Spenser ~ The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 1

Waterhouse-Knight Lady

The Gentle Knight rode through the wood, following the sound of someone in distress. His companion Carl walked at his side. Presently they came to a clearing and beheld a Lady weeping by the side of a small stream. So intent was she on her mournful state, she did not hear the Knight’s approach.

“My Lady,” said the Knight. “Why do you weep?”

Startled, the Lady looked up in wide-eyed wonder at the Knight. Then she buried her face in her hands and began weeping anew. The Knight immediately dismounted and knelt as a supplicant.

“If you would but tell me the cause of your tears,” he said, “I will banish it ere this day is done.”

The Lady raised her fair head and placed a trembling hand on the Knight’s arm.

“Good and Gentle Knight,” she said, “you have truly shown yourself to be most noble to stay your journey for a poor maiden’s trouble. I would not delay your high purpose…yet my heart is so grieved that I will forego the usual courtesies and pour forth my tale of woe.”

At her words, Carl rolled his eyes and went chasing after a moth. The Lady continued.

“See yon stream? Early this morning I was playing with my golden ball, tossing and catching it in all manner of merriment. But misfortune stayed my hand on my final toss, and my golden ball landed in the stream. From there, the water swiftly carried down, down, down to a tunnel through with the stream flows. And now my golden ball is stuck like a pig in the mud.”

“The worst of it is the clouds have gathered together in preparation for a mighty thunderstorm. The rain will eventually cause the tunnel to overflow, and my golden ball will be lost forever.”

Having told her tale, the Lady recommenced her weeping. The Knight said not a word but followed the stream until he espied the tunnel. Casting himself on the ground, he reached into the tunnel in an attempt to snatch the runaway ball. When that failed, he grabbed his lance and poked it into the tunnel, trying to push the ball to freedom. But however skillfully the Knight wielded his lance, the ball remained beyond his reach. At length the Knight withdrew from the tunnel and returned to the Lady, defeated and dishonored.

“I am defeated and dishonored,” he cried. “I am no longer worthy to bear the title Gentle Knight!” With a wail of anguish, the Knight began removing his armor. Seeing that her golden ball was still stuck in the tunnel, the Lady joined in the general lament.

In the meantime, Carl, who had overheard the Lady’s tale, started taking measurements and gathering data. He determined that the rate at which the rainwater would flow into the tunnel was modeled by the function cubic feet per hour. The rate at which water drained from the tunnel was modeled by the function cubic feet per hour. It was his intent to use these two functions to determine the time at which the amount of water in the tunnel would be at a minimum and what the amount would be. His biggest problem would be getting the Knight and the Lady to stop their wailing long enough to listen to him.

“Gentle Knight! Lady!” he shouted. “I have a plan for retrieving the golden ball!”

With these and other words, Carl finally persuaded the Knight and the Lady to stop crying.

“Listen,” he said, “I can figure out the minimum amount of water in the tunnel; if it is not too deep, I can go into the tunnel and get the golden ball. Will that work for you?”

The Knight and the Lady were awed by his words and could only nod dumbly. Carl set to work with his calculations. As the minutes passed, and the sky grew dark, the Lady began to fret.

“Oh, Sir Knight, what if your brave companion cannot find an answer? Can there really be a solution to such a problem?”

The Knight groaned in response and began removing his outer garments.

“Whatever the outcome, I have proved myself a knave and a beast.”

Carl ignored the two of them and continued to calculate. After about quarter of an hour, he threw down his notes.

“Done! The amount of water in the tunnel will be at a minimum of 27.9945 cubic feet in approximately 3.2719 hours. Now all we have to do it wait; then I will retrieve the golden ball.”

So the Knight, the Lady, and Carl sat down and waited. At the end of 3.2719 hours, Carl went into the tunnel and found the Lady’s ball. He carried it over to her with a warning to be careful of where she tossed it. The Lady was so thankful that she asked Carl to name his reward–she would give him anything, even her own hand in marriage. This, however, Carl refused.

“Lady, I appreciate the offer,” he said, “but I am a cat.”

Then he told the Knight (who by this time was naked) to put on his clothes and his armor. Carl was thoroughly wet from his excursion into the tunnel and wanted to get indoors to the nearest fire as soon as possible. Because the Knight was a gentleman and Carl was a cat, they took the Lady with them, along with her golden ball.




The Pulpinator

No Pulp for Me

J. R. Handley posted a blog about writing pulp fiction, which he defined in terms of the number of words written in a year (a lot) and the number of books published (a lot.) I admire those who can write and publish so prolifically in the same way I admire pro golfers: I cannot do what they do but am awfully glad that someone does.  I have met people who admire math teachers for the same reason.

(Note to self: Download latest AP questions from the College Board.)

The reason I mention pulp fiction is because it is another step in my writing journey. In this case, it is a look down a path that is not for me. Looking at non-models and non-exemplars is just as important as the models and examples. I spent time considering whether or not I should try my hand at pulp fiction; I decided for now to leave it.

For one thing, pulp fiction demands writing thousands of words a day. That does not work for me because I am all about Rhino, and my Rhino does not charge–he meanders. He is like Ferdinand the bull, stopping and smelling the flowers. When Rhino and I get together to write something, it is an exercise in patience and perseverance.

In the first place, Rhino is always late. No matter when I schedule a writing session, Rhino is never on time. Often he simply fails to show up at all. This is annoying because whatever I write on my own has to be redone when Rhino finally arrives. Just once I would like to settle down to write and have Rhino right there with me, without having to stop and grab a Kleenex, get a jacket, check email, or get a drink of water.

Second, Rhino doesn’t stick with an idea long enough to write thousands of words about it. His path diverges into the woods, onto the beach, and up the mountains. He grabs my pencil and runs away with it. And what can I do but follow him?

(Note to self: You really do enjoy Rhino’s sidetracks.)

Finally, pulp fiction writers publish their books–their many words are put into print for public consumption. I am still working on getting my first book published.   The thing is, I don’t mind the wait. I am not in a hurry. I am enjoying the journey.

(Note to self: Write in all sorts of emotional states; it’s a good aerobic exercise. But be careful about what you publish. Just because it’s written doesn’t mean it’s meant for the public to read.)

So I am glad that people like J. R. Handley write pulp fiction and that they write about writing any sort of fiction. It makes for interesting books.   And I’m glad that Rhino meanders and sometimes stops along the way–it gives me time to visit a point of interest and read the signpost.

Official Grammarian

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the rules of grammar have changed recently. “Their” can be used as a singular possessive pronoun instead of “his or hers.” “They” can be used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.

In addition, you (note I’m replacing “one”) may now single-space as the end of a sentence. Who decides these things? Apparently a select group of linguists do. I happened to stumble across this information while I was racing down a sidetrack. Otherwise, I might never have known and would have continued to foist “his/hers” on the reading public.

I think those who change the rules of grammar should make public service announcements at regular intervals for fourteen months. And I have just the way to do that. Recruit someone who likes to tweet–a lot!

Suppose we find someone who tweets all the time to everybody about everything. A person like that could make himself really useful to the American people by making public service announcements. Perhaps we should give the job of Tweeter-in-Chief to someone well-known, someone in the spotlight. He would not have to necessarily be popular, just someone who draws press coverage. That way, not only would his followers read them, they would be broadcast in every home by the media.

And as for the content, the Tweeter-in-Chief could tweet out all sorts of useful information such as weather conditions, road closures, schools’ foggy day schedules, airline flight delays and cancellations and, of course, changes in the rules of grammar.