Writerly resolutions: May status

No good reason Progress in May. A few fits and starts not all so greatfor this month’s poor progress on the novel other than life intervening. In theory, I can finish this rewrite still by the end of June, but I suspect it will be July when it happens. Once that’s done, I end up diving into some heavy-duty research to make sure that I can fill in details and fix errors in the text

Story revision continues slowly.

The procrastination story is up for workshopping tomorrow which means I’ll be back on to the new story which I had optimistically thought was going to be done back in October.

Ceci n’est pas Graham Greene

I somewhat randomly found myself at the website for the Harry Ransom Center and remembering that they had some (most? all?) of Graham Greene’s archive there, I thought I’d see what they had and found this picture, labelled “Gabriel García Márquez and Graham Greene”:

Picture of Gabriel García Márquez and someone who is definitely NOT Graham Greene

My first thought was, whoa, is that a picture of Greene with a mustache? Then I said, wait a minute, that doesn’t look like Graham Greene at all. In the same search results, there’s another picture and this is Graham Greene:

Gabriel García Márquez and Graham Greene

I don’t know how the other guy got mis-identified, and I don’t know how to let the HRC people know that they have a mistake, but there it is.

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“Place de Stalingrad”: The story behind the story

n Paris and Brussels, there are metro Image of the rotunde at Place de Stalingrad with a fountain in frontstops called “Stalingrad,” a fact I found fascinating, especially since the city of Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd in the wave of de-Stalinization under Nikita Krushchev. On my last visit to Paris, I decided I had to see what was at the stop with this name so one evening while my pregnant wife convalesced in our AirBnB I headed out to the 19ᵉ arrondissement to see for myself.

The immediate environs of the metro stop are not particularly interesting. It’s a nondescript neighborhood of shops and Hauptmann apartment blocks. But turn a corner and you find yourself at the actual plaza that gives the station its name. Situated at the southern end of the Bassin de la Villette, and far from the tourists who congregate in the lower-numbered arrondissements, it’s a place of tranquil beauty with movie theaters and restaurants facing the water.

With this place in mind, I started wondering what sort of story might come out of the place and thinking about the artists selling their wares out of stalls at the top of Montmartre, I came up with my characters and their mysterious and absent classmate. It took a fair amount of rewriting and reorganizing to get the story in the shape that it finally took, but I am pretty happy with the end result. You can read it here.

Feedback on drafts of the story came from Barbara Richstone, Gerald Winter, Robyn Ringler, Steven Thomas Howell, Travis Kiger, Maaza Mengiste, Monica Zarazua, Dan Portincaso, Davy McNell and Lori Barrett, 

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Writerly resolutions: April status

Another interesting graph month. Graph of progress in April. Things slowed down on April 8th while I was writing the new chapter, plus life intervened. I did get the first draft of the new chapter plus a rewrite done this month.This time the odd shapes are because I added a new chapter to the book (and life intervened a bit more than usual). I got a bit stuck on the new chapter since I wanted it to be about more than the chapter title and historical event that I was relating and I needed to figure out how it affected the characters and the story. I still have to do a revision round on the chapter, but it’s overall in a good place.

Story revision is going slowly as I realize that the story at the top of the pile needs a lot of work.It will probably end up going back to workshop before it goes on submission as I’m doing some major surgery on the piece.

News about a new publication tomorrow.

The new story is plodding along although I’ve taken another procrastination break from it to write something very short and strange. I think it has a chance of not being bad.

Song of the Month: Feelin’ Love by Paula Cole from This Fire

This song was never a single from Paula Cole’s second album, but it really should have been.

In his song, Cole manages to convey in music and lyrics the feeling of sex perfectly. Some of it is in the doubles-entrendes lyrics, but it also comes from the music itself. Cole’s breathy singing conveys a sense of longing and desire that can’t be misunderstood and at the bottom of it all is Tony Levin’s brilliant bass playing.

This is the part where I get a little music nerdy on you.

In most pop-rock music, there’s a chord progression underlying the song with one chord per measure.¹

In Feelin’ Love, the chords in the verses mostly alternate between G and C with a handful of Fs and E♭s thrown in for good measure. Most of the time, with this sort of chord progression, on the first beat of the measure, the bass player would play the root note of the chord and then play something that pulls the harmony to the next chord. For example, in a jazz player, the bass player might play G A B♭ B♮ under the G chord to lead into the C chord and then perhaps pull back to the G with C A F F♯. 

But Levin’s bass line inverts expectations he doesn’t even play on the first note of the measure² but comes in off the beat and then not with the root note of the chord but rather the 5³. Then, he plays a 7 and 8 to bring us to the root but pulls back to the 7 right away. The effect is to mimic the effect of a lover bringing their partner to the brink of orgasm and then stopping to prolong the experience. Quite simply, there is no more sexual bass line in all of music than this one.


  1. More or less. Sometimes, there might be a long stretch without changes as is the case in modal jazz, or there might be more rapid changes of chord, but we can pretend that this is close enough to the truth for our needs.
  2. Coming in after the one is one of the characteristics of reggae music, although it tends not to be done on every bar, but rather would be prepared by coming in an eight note after the 3 on the previous bar. Levin isn’t quite doing that here.
  3. That is the fifth note of the scale under the chord, so for a G chord, we would have G₁A₂B₃C₄D₅E₆F₇G₈⁴
  4. Those of you who know a little music might be saying, “shouldn’t that be F♯ and not F for the seventh note? But in this case, because the song itself is in C, G acts as a V chord which means that it will keep the notes of the C scale and have a flattened 7th note.
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Sonnet 18 after much machine translation

Do I cut your summer?
You are very beautiful and very sweet.
Can change by a strong wind.
And put the summer in a short time.
It’s hot in the eyes of the sky,
It’s a gold weight.
The best time of this time is correct
Activity or change
But all the summer never passes.
To lose damage;
His garden not dead when the time
If time is over for permanent calling,
Men can take breath or water,
That’s why it’s a long life, and gives.

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Writerly resolutions: March status

Sometimes a graph doesn’t tell the My progress for March. Steadyish progress from abour 40,000 words to about 47,000 words then it looks like I stall out for a week and a half before more progress but this is why there's a blog post and not just a picturewhole story. My graph looks like for about a third of the month I didn’t make much progress but in fact, even though my word count didn’t move around much (and even dropped a bit), that was a result of wrestling with a troublesome passage in the first draft and making it much better on the rewrite. I feel a bit like the flat bits on the graph show more work happening than the steep slopes.

Got two more story revisions kicked out the door, one of which is a chapter in the novel, the other was accepted for publication fairly quickly so there will be more news about that soonish.

The new story is gaining more clarity as I get more of a sense of what it’s about. I was to have workshopped this Thursday but a bout of Covid in the family is keeping me out of the rotation but I’ll be getting a new slot in two weeks and maybe it will be ready then?

Song of the Month: I’d Have You Anytime by Evan Rachel Wood from Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International

This is a bit of an odd bird on a tribute album to Bob Dylan in that it’s really much more of a George Harrison song than a Dylan song (the melody on the verses is unmistakably Harrison-esque), but let’s put that aside. 

I first became aware of Evan Rachel Wood from her turn in the Julie Taymor–helmed Across the Universe where she played Lucy, Max’s sister and Jude’s love interest and had two solo numbers including an exquisite version of “Blackbird” which substituted a droning harmonium for the originals finger-picked acoustic guitar accompaniment to great effect. Here again, the song is beautifully reimagined as it might have been performed by a 1930s chanteuse. The end result transcends the original.

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It’s Lent

Trigger warning: Image of cross on field of ashesearnest religiosity ahead.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. There are a lot of folks who seem to take this as a sort of performative event, kind of missing a key passage from today’s reading:

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.

 And then there are those who take it as a moment of self-improvement. No more smoking, or drinking, or perhaps lose a few pounds.

I didn’t really get Lent as a kid (among other things, I thought you were giving something up forever and not just until Easter), and it was only as an adult that it really made sense to me when I had given up drinking alcohol for Lent and I had one of my usual failures in my love life (because being heartbroken is the dominant theme of one’s twenties). So in the midst of my distress, I said to myself, “I need a drink.” And then I stopped because I’d given up drinking and instead realized that what I really needed was God.

And at that point, I realized that the key thing about a Lenten sacrifice was that it should be about giving up something that you do habitually so that you have that frequent reminder to engage in prayer at a higher level than you normally do. The fasting and sacrifice is there to be a reminder of prayer.

And for those who would engage in some positive practice in place of sacrifice like almsgiving or social justice work, that’s great, but that shouldn’t just be a Lenten practice, that should be an always practice. Lent is a time of engaging in a kind of extreme spirituality, going above and beyond what is sustainable for a short period of time.

Writerly resolutions: February status

Even though there was one less day and I Progress on the novel in February. An almost straight diagonal line upmissed a day of writing, I managed to get more words rewritten for the novel this month than last. I’ve also been in a bit of a research binge of late with even more books added to my list and more books read. Israel Joseph Singer’s¹ novel The Brothers Ashkenazi was a wonderful read.

On the revision front, I finished revising one story and got it into submissions. Another story is in progress and being a bit shorter and perhaps in somewhat better shape, should be quicker to get kicked out the door

On the new story front, I ended up, in procrastination over this story, writing a whole other piece which got workshopped in February. The procrastination may have worked a little because I think I‘m a bit unblocked on the new story. There’s a lot that will need to be cut as I figure out what the story is about.


  1. Yes, this is the older brother of the better-known Isaac Bashevis Singer. And perhaps a more rewarding author to read as well.
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