Friday, May 19, 2017

Notorious Characters

 Notorious characters populate the literary world. They are the essential evildoers, the vicious villains, and the compulsory cads that generate conflict and drive the plot. The bad guys of both genders give the other characters something to do, namely avoid their evilness.

The interesting thing about notorious characters is that they are all notorious for the same things. They are cruel, wicked, unfeeling, pathological liars who crave power and world domination, and, oh, yes, they are usually late for dinner. (I made up that last one.)

The point is they all share common traits of notoriety. But what if they each had a unique quirk for which they were notorious among their minions, slaves, and intimate circle of friends?
For example, what if Darth Vadar was notorious for having bad breath? Suppose it was a well-kept secret that he tortured his enemies by breathing on them. That’s one way to strike fear in everyone’s heart.

“Luke, turn to the dark side, or I will Huhh….Huhh…”

Imagine Lord Voldemort as a notorious nose-picker. That could explain why his nails were so long; with such a flat nose, he would probably need a set of heavy-duty claws. I can just see him at Malfoy’s mansion working on his nose while the Lestranges give their weekly terror report. (Ev’ry body’s doin’ it, doin’ it, pickin’ their nose and chewin’ it, chewin’ it. They think it’s funny, but it’s snot.)

A final example is Sauron. We all know him as Black Master of the land of Mordor, the Eye of the Dark Tower, the Enemy of the Free Peoples, and the Lord of Barad-dûr. But what if he were also notorious for being late to everything.

The cover story is that his ring was lost for thousands of years before Gollum happened upon it. But what if Sauron just missed it due to his lack of punctuality? Gandalf said the One Ring was trying to get back to its master, sending out signals. I’m over here, over here. Look in the river, you idiot! The ring probably got tired of waiting and ordered a pizza.

Like Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It’s always something.” It’s the same with notorious characters. They are either terrorizing the world with their evil, or they are annoying it with their incessant humming.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Book of Rhino ~ The Revelation

The Book of Rhino ~ The Revelation

“Do I dare disturb the universe?”
T. S. Eliot ~ The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The Book of Rhino is about five boys—brothers—coming of age in Albion (England) during the Middle Ages. When they reach adulthood, they will rule the different provinces of the kingdom. The plot revolves around the training they undergo to become effective rulers. However, one of the boys, Prince Rhino, does not want to share power with his brothers. He has a plan to eventually rule over them. He decides that he will be such a model of perfection his brothers will love and serve him forever. He thinks it will be easy, but the universe also has a plan.
And then there’s a girl named Amalia.

About the book:
The Book of Rhino is an integration of low-density fantasy and historical fiction. It is similar in setting and time period to The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart and The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen R. Lawhead.

The main themes of the book are free will and choice, servant leadership, equity and social justice, brotherhood and friendship.

Its main literary influences are: Phantastes by George MacDonald, The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, and The Robot Novels by Isaac Asimov.
Amazon Review:

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.

About the Author:
S. M. Hart wrote her first story, The Secret Book, when she was a child.  In college, she majored in mathematics with a minor in liberal studies and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. For over twenty years, she taught at a large urban high school in Fresno, California.  There she used literacy, critical thinking, and empirical investigations to teach a variety of math concepts to teenagers.  The teaching experience showed her the connection between mathematics and imagination, and between the prosaic and the poetical.  It gave her insight into human relationships and social compacts.  It also allowed her to practice the art of storytelling, and it greatly exercised her sense of humor.  Ms. Hart’s debut novel is The Book of Rhino: The Revelation, an integration of low-density fantasy and historical fiction.  Ms. Hart is originally from Durango, Colorado and now lives in Central California with her husband.

“I have woven the thought of things that I love into The Book of Rhino:  family, friends, and fellowship; music, poetry, and truth; justice, equity, and compassion. I sincerely hope to disturb the universe.”
S. M. Hart

The Book of Rhino is available at:
Barnes and Noble
Fountain Blue Publishing

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Deepest POV

“Are these magic cloaks?” asked Pippin.
“I do not know what you mean by that. They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this land. They are elvish robes certainly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone; they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lórien that we love; for we put all the thought of all that we love into all that we make.”
Celeborn ~ The Fellowship of the Ring

The Quintessential Editor (welcome back, Corey) recently posted a blog about deep POV or “Show, Don’t Tell.” His article was very informative and got me thinking about the concept of Show, Don’t Tell. I realized that the deepest POV, the biggest example of Show, Don’t Tell in The Book of Rhino is mine.

To read my book is to read about its author, S. M. Hart. I have woven the thought of everything I love into the story, and the result is magic.

Like the elves of Lórien, I love music, poetry, and beauty. Like them, I love family, friends, and fellowship. Like them, I love truth, integrity, and compassion. Equity, justice, and freedom have all gone into The Book of Rhino.

In writing this story. I have not merely told everyone my dream of how the world could be—I have shown it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Carl and the Rematch

Johanna and Carl were sitting at tea one afternoon when suddenly Bob hopped over to their table.
“Well, Johanna,” he said, “Have you considered my offer?”

“Yes, I have, and the answer is still no,” said Johanna. “I told you I have no interest in another race. Even though I technically beat you, everyone knows that you run twice as fast as me. I see no point in a rematch.”

“But, Johanna…”

“I said no, Bob.”

“But, but…”


Bob turned to her companion.

“Carl, you talk to her. Get her to change her mind.”

Carl merely looked at Bob, and then started licking his paw.  Johanna took another sip of tea.  Bob’s ears drooped as he turned and walked away.

“Honestly,” said Johanna, “I don’t know what to do to discourage him. Every few days, he pesters me about another race. What should I do?”

Carl thought for a minute while he scratched himself.

“Let me look into it,” he said.  “I will gather some data, crunch the numbers, and get back to you.”
He and Joanna finished their tea.

Carl spent the next few days watching Johanna and Bob run. He made a table of values showing Johanna’s velocity and wrote a function that represented Bob’s velocity. Then he showed the data to Bob, pointing out to him the different velocities.  Bob grew excited when he saw the data and told Carl that he would give Johanna a twenty-minute head start on the race. Carl said he would talk to Johanna.

The next day, Carl met with Johanna and showed her the data.

“Bob said he would give you a twenty-minute head start on the race, seeing how it takes you forty minutes to run the course.  I recommend you accept his challenge.”

“Accept!” Johanna said. “Are you crazy? Bob won’t fool around like he did last time; he’ll turn on the steam and blow right past me.”

“Trust me on this,” said Carl. “Accept the challenge.”

Word swept through the country that Johanna and Bob were going to run a rematch race. The odds were calculated and bets were placed in favor of Bob winning.  Spectators lined the course the day of the race. Excitement was high. At the signal, Johanna took off running. Bob made a show of waiting patiently for twenty minutes to transpire; then he started running after Johanna. He was confident that he would win the race, having used a left Riemann sum to approximate Johanna’s velocity at 152 meters per minute. Based on Carl’s function, he calculated that his velocity would be 350 meters per minute. Hence, even with a head start, Bob figured he would overtake Johanna. He almost made it.

As expected, it took Johanna forty minutes to run the course, but it took Bob 40.18557 minutes. Johanna won the race a second time. Bob never again mentioned a rematch.

That evening over dinner, Johanna thanked Carl for advising her to run the race.

“How did you know I would win?’ she asked.

“It was easy,” said Carl, “once I showed the data to Bob. He calculated your velocity at 152 meters per minute using a left Riemann sum and thought he could outrun you, even after a twenty-minute delay. However, I calculated your velocity using a right Riemann sum, which makes it 190 meters per minute.”

“How did you know Bob used a left Riemann sum?”

“If he had known your velocity was greater than his, he never would have agreed to the race.”
“Well, I am grateful for all your help,” said Johanna, “including this dinner. It’s absolutely delicious! 
But, Carl, isn’t all this a little expensive? I mean, you being a cat and all, how can you afford it?”

Carl licked his paw.

“Who do you think bet on you?”

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bitter Responsibility

T. S. Eliot did not include the story of Grizabella the Glamour Cat in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. According to his widow, he thought her story was too sad for children. I admire him for that.

I have not yet created a bitter character because of the history he or she would have to suffer.  I think that writers are responsible for the characters they create, even the monsters.  In the epic poem Beowulf, bitterness and despair were the driving forces behind Grendel’s fatal attack on Heorot.

Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance.
It harrowed him to hear the din of the loud banquet every day in the hall.

Grendel was created to be an outcast, despised and rejected by men. His story is too sad for children and adults.

I am current struggling with a story in The Book of Rhino. One of the characters is motivated by bitterness and resentment. His behavior is central to the plot, but I don’t like doing this to him.  He doesn’t deserve it.  No one deserves to be made bitter – that includes people.

So if I find it so difficult to make a fictional character bitter, what about a real person? Do I guard against creating bitterness in a fellow human being? It’s something to think about.