Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Machinations of WORD


The title refers not to word machinations, but to the Microsoft writing program WORD.

Writers know not to count on its spellcheck to find every typo. We certainly know not to trust its grammar check, which while helpful, is flawed.


But recently I’ve encountered some new bugs. On an R & R, I agreed with the suggestion to change the name of a character. In the past, whenever I resolved to do so, I entrusted WORD to help.


So the first thing is to use the Find function, and then the Replace function. Say, for example, that you wish to change the name Amy to Lucia. Ask WORD to find Amy, and it will tell you it found, say, 237. Then ask it to replace all with Lucia. Next, ask the program to find all the possessive Amy’s, such as in “Amy’s hat” and replace with the possessive Lucia’s. It will find fewer, but some, and you will command WORD to replace all. Done.


Well, not really. You still have to go over every line in the novel's manuscript, because there may be references to the old name that would not fit the replacement. For example, if someone says, “I suppose you are named after Amy Adams,” the line would not work as “I suppose you are named after Lucia Adams.” Then there are the part-name mentions, such as someone calling out “Am...” when the change would require it to be “Lu...”---
Or if a character says, “Amie, do you spell it with an ‘ie’ or a ‘y’?” it would not make sense in the replacement.
Thus, while the WORD program has made it easier/faster. All changes still necessitate a read-through.


But the other day, working on a name change with a thorough read-through, I encountered something I have never seen before. The first mechanical hiccup was that half the replacements were followed by four blank spaces, not the standard one space between words. And worse, WORD didn’t flag these extra spaces. I figured I must have done something wrong. I mean, a mechanical machine can’t mechanically make capricious decisions. Maybe I pressed on something. Who knows?


But then I discovered that in two places, and only those two, WORD simply failed to replace the old name. There is was. What in the mechanical brain of this mechanical beast would make it come up with such mischievous machinations?


Bly me. But it was a good reminder that there is no find and replace for the human proofreader.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Listening to Books


Do you like Audio Books?


My experience is both limited and mixed.
I listened to a few books on long drives. I can firmly state that they helped me get through the long commutes. I have a friend who swears gardening and house cleaning are much improved with a good book in her ears.


But it is a different sort of experience. It is not reading, as the content and plot are absorbed, I suspect, by a different part of the brain.




For one thing, the complete focus that reading while not doing anything else is gone. Paying attention to the traffic or the weeds is not trivial. For another, the emotional flavor of the words is colored by the reading voice, and the reading voice is rarely the inner voice inside your head.


In other words, (pun intended) the reader makes all the difference.


Here is a link to a good post about writers who are tempted to produce/read their own audio books.


So far, my personal experience is that for less demanding commercial books, audio books are fine. Especially with a good reader. Exquisite literary fiction still needs my reading eyes.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Revise & Resubmit


Last week I posted about the sad writerly R. (Rejection L) This post is about the happy one, the Revise & Resubmit Request, known as R&R. J

R&R requests can come from agents, editors, or even critique-partners. For the purpose of this post I will refer to them as Publishing Professionals, or PP for short. Their suggestions can be detailed and clear, (which means specific) or brief and general. They culminate with an invitation to re-submit the revised manuscript.

R&R are happy ‘R’s, because they are another chance to improve. They may turn into a contract, but mostly they are a chance to make the work better, and maybe take a leap in the craft for years to come. A good thing.


I take these seriously, always, no exceptions. I also admit they cause trepidation. Can I manage a revision successfully? Do I understand what the issues are? Is there even a point to try to tackle this thorny thing?
Calm down, now. Take a deeeeep breath. Sleep on it. And then...


...And then I tackle the clearest most manageable suggestions first. I check the issues off as I go, though I will re-examine my checked-off points at the end, again.
One at a time, step by step. The fog clears, and the road is visible.


What if two R&R from two PP come at once, and they are contradictory? I don’t mean somewhat, or generally pointing to different things that need changing. I mean specifically.


Example: PP #1 says the main character’s name is spot-on, and part of why they were immediately drawn to the story and the allusion of the name to a notable cultural phenomenon is brilliant. PP #2 says the main character’s name must be changed, because the allusion to that same specific cultural phenomenon is undesirable.
I give this example, because it has happened to me.


You could choose to make the change and return the manuscript to the one who suggested it. You could choose not to. You could re-submit two different versions to two different PP. You could go and stand on your head for a while until enough blood rushes in and you see more clearly.
My point is these occurrences are reminders that as happy as R&R are, they are not created equally and there is more than one-way to milk a cow.


But please don’t take this as advice about milking, for which I only know one way. For storytelling, there are many ways and then there’s your way. So that’s my final piece of cheese for today: remember the story is yours. Take advice from PP who respect this and treat you as the good writer you are.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

REJECTION?


We’re in good company J

There are articles on the process of digesting rejection, that badge of participation in the walk we walk.
Speaking for myself, I can only say that few of them affect me. The form rejections say nothing, (other than “not for us”) and the others are often too cryptic or contradictory of one another to be of help. The only personal rejections that still sting are those that follow an enthusiastic full manuscript request or a Revise & Resubmit request, (R&R) and giving feedback indicating a fatal flaw that resonates.

{I do, however, choose to take acceptances very personally. Thank you, you know who you are!}


But the point is that even the greatest greats have gotten rejections, and in hindsight, the specific reasons given suggest the flaw may lie with the rejecter, not the rejected. This article has been around for some years for a reason. It’s a compilation of just such.


Only here’s a new one for you, fellow veterans of the rejection battles. After seventy-three years, on February 7th 2019, the British Council issued an apology to the no-longer-able-to-receive-it George Orwell, regarding a rejection of a commissioned article.
I post the original rejection letter below. Keep in mind that, at the time, Mr. Orwell was already regarded as one of England’s greatest living men of letter.




Mr. Orwell didn’t live to get the apology. Not that we are owed a thing, but let’s not hold our breaths for any.
Instead---
Do your best work. Make it better.
Keep trucking. 




Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Passover Confession

Passover, the holiday of eating Matzos and telling of the Jewish people's exodus from ancient Egypt and from slavery to being a free if roaming tribes, is in full swing. It began this year on April 19 and will culminate on the 26th.




We're supposed to eat only unleavened bread, the famous (some may say infamous) matzos, because our ancestors had to leave in a hurry and couldn't wait for the dough to rise. I somehow doubt that in their hurrying to bake unrisen dough they got such wonderful crispy results as the modern Matzo. But that's not the point. It serves us as a reminder. A visceral note for the body to acknowledge that this period of time is different.



But I eat matzo every single day of the year. It's part of my breakfast, (with cheese) and lunch, (with hummus or peanut butter) and just about anytime. I do this because I really (really, REALLY) like it. Just ask DH, who lives here. Mirka's matzo is a staple, always on the counter.


So sue me. I'm cheating Passover. I would probably note the difference more if I eat bread on passover, perish the thought.




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Taking a Story from Picture Book to Novel


If you’ve been writing and submitting stories to editors or agents, eventually you might get a personal suggestion to take that short story you considered a picture book text and make it a novel for older readers, or take that chapter book and expand it to a novel for young adults.


This is what happened to The Voice of Thunder, which began as a short story I mistook for a potential picture book. This is also how many of the subsequent novels for middle grade readers I have written began their lives.


What does the suggestion to “expand” a story and re-fashion it for older readers mean?


Obviously, it must be longer. Not twice or thrice the word count, but ten to a hundred fold. A five-hundred-word story becomes a fifty-thousand-word story. But this tells of the size of the box, not its content.


Expanding means going both wider and deeper.


Wider pertains to the cast of characters, (more enter the scene) and plot, (many more twists and turns) and adding descriptive passages that the illustrations would have done in the picture book, even as the same arc is essentially already there. You already have the beginning, middle, and end. It’s all the stuff in and around the middle that the writer must conjure.


Deeper means extra layers of character exploration. This applies to all the characters, the ones who were there before and the new ones. They all have a past and wonder about the future. They all have layers of ambiguity where the various forces that drive a character operate, sometimes at cross-purposes.


Writers are advised to make sure the age of the protagonists match the intended readership. This, though a technical detail, also helps navigate the deepening of the characters.


Every time I undertook this challenge, I became ever more appreciative of the art of Picture Books writing. I marvel at how it was all in there in the short version. Longer takes more time, but shorter is harder, believe me.

©Chris Brecheens 2012



Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The In-Betweens


You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
Copyright 1944 Johnny Mercer



Mr. InBetween turns up again in this Australian TV series. He’s big again, that Mister.


But I’m mulling over a different In-Between. I’m in between two projects. Different revisions, different stories, one done the other about to begin.
This is necessary In Between time.


I know writers who work on different manuscripts simultaneously. I know writers who jump from one to the other without any down time. I know writers who plan one, draft another, and revise a third and a forth in the same week.


I tried some limited version of this when I was in the midst of a first draft and a requested revision to a different novel manuscript came, with some time sensitive matter. I worked on the first draft (practically sacred time for me) during the week, and revision on the weekend. That sort of worked. Sort of, because it would have been better to separate the narrative voices by more than a day in each direction.




So, at least for me, In Between Time is part of the process. Call me Mrs. InBetween without worries about my taking it as messing. It’s the exact opposite. It’s a way of assuring clarity and creative purpose that is not messy.



Monday, April 1, 2019

Writers as Liars


April Fool’s, and it got me thinking about spy stories.

“Heh?” I imagine you’re saying. “Why?”


April Fool’s is a day of sanctioned pranking, deceiving, and let’s just say it, lying.

Spies, too, are sanctioned to lie by professional code. They lie to their loved ones about what they’re really doing. They lie to people they meet on assignment because they are spying on them. They even lie to their superiors about the small infractions they may have inadvertently committed on the job. They are trained to lie all the time. Don’t ask me how I know because I know it for a fact and I am not lying about that. But maybe I am.


I’ve only written one story (a novel for MG) with spies in its center. The theme of the story is lies, deception and betrayal. Not your usual glamorous depiction of brave action for a great cause, around which most spy novels are centered. Betraying people you know or meet is not noble.


Writers are constant liars also, even as we couch it as fibbing or stretching the truth. We conjure stories and insist none of the characters have relation to living or dead people. That’s a lie. We write memoirs and insist it is as it was, which is a lie because a good story needs to mute or enhance and also mainstream the telling.  We conjure and make believe and become so adept at it that we occasionally confuse ourselves.


It’s all in service of humans' endless fascination with other humans.


But one day a year, we do this openly and rejoice at this life art.

I hope your April Fools is worthy of its delightful possibilities.


Not even what I wrote here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

“Black & White” Thinking*


*No, this doesn’t refer to race, but to “all or nothing”

Children, some say, are basically black & white thinkers. A character or an action is either all good or all bad. This perception remains with some their whole lives, but most grow out of it to see others in shades of gray.


Developmental psychologists have written that the subtle and more nuanced understanding of history, story, and of other people— beings somewhere between the ages of ten and sixteen. Family guidance and environment, as well as individual temperament, make a difference as to whether this happens sooner or trickles in later.


Many storytellers do not realize the immense power they have to help this process along. The fairytales of yore have done nothing to help subtle understanding. But modern writing can.



As a decidedly gray thinker who sees humanity’s failures and triumphs as mixed bags, I am committed to showing this complexity even in the shortest of picture book texts. I don’t go so far as to assign no value to anything, but I will show that wicked is often closer to weak, and good is not to be confused with godly.


How do you like your characters? I love mine enough to let them be gray-ish.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Focus on WHAT’S UP TO YOU



Reminder to self: Goals that depend on others are not goals, but wishes.


Up to me:
*Write regularly
*Meet creative output goals
*Do not shortchange non-writerly cares
*Meet obligations to critique partners
*Meet professional communication goals
*Be kind and responsible to all souls in my sphere, human and feline
*Vacuum occasionally, mop often J


Not up to me:
*Get pat-on-back for writing
*Get pat-on-back for output
*Get appreciation for my cooking etc.                    
*Have critics like my output
*Get prompt responses
*Have kindnesses come back to me, human or feline
*Get a good housekeeping award 




Tuesday, March 12, 2019

THE TIMES THEY ARE A’ CHANGIN


Having *just* gone onto Daylight Savings Time, (after our country's ever decreasing sojourns on standard time) those who’ve read my posts of yore know that makes me cranky.


In November 2018 the citizens of the great state of California voted to stay on Daylight Savings Time permanently. The state that champions change doesn’t enjoy it as much as you’d think. I know I don’t.


Proposition 7 passed by sixty percent of the voters. But no matter, because the Federal Uniform Time Act prevents this from happening. Yup. We can stay on standard time year round, but not on Daylight Savings. So while I personally do not care which one we stay on, (staying is the operative word for me) seems we can’t stay on DST.


Kvetch, kvetch. There are worse things than twice a year adjustments. Get over it.


But then, how would I get to experience the ground shifting discomfort that my fictional characters endure? And what would I have to complain about on a beautiful California morning?


In the words of my grandmother, (and maybe yours) “You have to have clouds. Because if every day was sunshine, how would you know how good it is?”


Adjusting over here.



Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Road to TITLE


Still ruminating on my post from two weeks back---

Because I just re-worked a R &R (writerly code for “revise & resubmit” request) which began with a suggestion for a change of title.


When querying agents or working with editors, some have asked if I was open to changing the title.
Goodness me. I am more than open. I welcome your suggestions.


Because, for me, the title is a working title and no more. It serves to remind me of the theme as I draft. Once done, it has performed its job.


A story’s title is its initial offering. It’s the bowstring center of a wrapped box. The title is not the wrapping paper, (that’s the cover design and the flap jacket text) or the present (the work) itself.



A good title is evocative without giving away the story. A great title is pithy and atmospheric at once. A working title is rarely that.



I know I am rather prosaic in my working title choices. This may explain why my first agent changed just about all my working titles. I still have the word documents of my offering alternative titles to these old submissions, and some are pages long.


The final title is the traditional publishing house's prerogative. Their job is to publish (i.e. make public) and to market. This is why in most cases writers have neither control nor the option to refuse a title change the publisher makes.


I’m not married to my working titles. Goodness, I couldn’t be if I wanted to. As titles can’t be copyrighted, it’s unhealthy to be wedded to them. No marriage license for us, Writer and Title.


So a revision request that includes a change of title is an automatic “absolutely yes” from me.




Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Galileo and the Scientific Truth


On this date, February 26, in the year of our Lord 1616, Galileo Galilei was formerly banned by the Roman Catholic Church from teaching or defending the view that the earth orbits the sun.


Now, I am not anti-Catholic (emphatically not) or anti-religious. The church had its reasons, with worry that challenging this dogma would lead to questioning all dogmas, an unstoppable process. Indeed, history showed this fear to be justified, and the loss of dogmatic faith that had already begun then, continues to this day. The church had reasons to fear that the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater, an expression so vivid I’m using it despite it being a cliché.


The thing is, four centuries later and a formal reversal of this ban by the church itself, we still ban thinking that we fear will lead to abuses of the social fabric and result in hurtful conduct. Only now, it is happening in the name of freethinking.



We haven’t changed. We’re still terrified of our own species propensity to abuse one another, and in the name of protecting us from ourselves we fire/take-down/ban/shun uncomfortable ideas.


I know real tolerance and considered debate when I see it. We’re not there yet.


Saluting the brave Galileos out there. You give humanity some hope.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

TITLES and Working Titles


In one of the funniest episodes of the TV series Seinfeld, Elaine wants to impress a famous Russian novelist with her inside knowledge. “Did you know that War and Peace was not Tolstoy’s original title? The original was War—WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?”

She was half-right. The working title was The Year 1805.


Stories abound, which I cannot vouch for, that many famous titles almost weren’t.
The Great Gatsby’s working title was The High Bouncing Lover.
To Kill a Mocking Bird’s working title was Atticus.
Of Mice and Men’s working title was Something that Happened.


Titles are an art all its own. If you ever marveled at a beautifully wrapped gift only to find that the content was less impressive, you got a glimpse as to what great titles can do. They are an enticing invitation to look inside without revealing the content. Fiction titles are evocative, not informative.

Titles cannot be copyrighted. They are often the brainchild of the publisher, not the author. Most publishing contracts don’t even give the author the right to veto a title they don’t care for.



For myself, I consider all my titles to be working-titles only. The title serves as a lamppost to remind me where or what or even why I’m telling this story, and sometimes whose story it is. But once the last line of the first draft materializes, all bets are off. I got to the finish line in one piece, and renaming the journey is wide open.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Writerly Routines


Most folks have routines that get them going no matter what sort of work they do.
Most writers I know, or know of, do their creative work in the morning. If writing is in addition to their day job, this means very early morning.


No matter when or what, routines help. It’s unglamorous. Admitting that you don’t write drunk into the wee hours of the night with existential despair as page after page is scrapped because you won’t give up until you have something--- doesn't sound arty.
(Oh-so very unlike Dashiell Hammett, at least as depicted in Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento.)

Most writers have a set routine and write no matter where inspiration chooses to dwell any given day. Most workers go to work no matter how enthusiastic they feel at a particular moment. Same thing.

© Luci Gutierrez for the New Yorker



My morning routine is as uninspiring as it is grounding. With small necessary adjustments, it generally goes something like this:


*Woken up by Nougat, one of my three cats. She thinks she’s an alarm clock.
*Thanking her, and thanking G-d for returning my soul to me. It’s a Jewish prayer that sets the day right.
*Making my bed. The other cats come in to help, with great merriment for all.
*Cleaning litter boxes, changing water bowls, filling the food bowls. Felines have priority because of all their help.
*Making strong tea with foamy milk. Drinking it, doing my best to keep cats off the foam.
*A short meditation. It’s supposed to be quiet time, but the cats determine this as well.
*Turn on the computer. Open WORD.
*I’m ON IT.


Two hours or so later, DH gets up and the rest of the day commences. That means coffee, breakfast, and the busy-busy stuff.


Do you have routines to get going?





Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Lunar Year Begins


Living in the San Francisco bay area, the celebrations of the lunar calendar are evident.


The East Asian Lunar New Year celebrations are, or were historically, based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar (occurring in late January or early February)
·         Chinese New Year
·         Japanese New Year (prior to 1873)
·         Korean New Year (Seollal)
·         Mongolian New Year (Tsagaan Sar) – may be celebrated a month later
·         Tibetan New Year (Losar) – celebrated a month later
·         Vietnamese New Year (Tết)


Today, February 5th  2019, is the first day of the Lunar New Year and this time it’s ...


The year of the PIG.



If you are celebrating, many blessing on you. If you’re not, why not?



!Wishing peace and prosperity to all!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Social Media Stress and the Take Down


Apparently, that’s a thing. And it’s not funny.

Social Media Stress, not to be confused with Social Media Phobia, is what happens when you live your real life on social media. It causes some to compare their lives unfavorably to the glowing images streaming through the feed.

But there is a darker more noxious aspect to this stress--     The Take Down.

And so I watched one Facebook friend whom I know in real life disappear from the virtual space because of a barrage of attack-comments, something I later learned is called a “take down” campaign. This particular friendly acquaintance shared many family events and relatives' successful milestones on social media. Something in the life of one of her nearest has rubbed someone wrong, very wrong. Then came the attack dogs, mostly under pseudonyms, and now none of us can see her anymore.
The stress was too much.


The Scarlet Letter, a book taught in English lit classes to the young as a cautionary tale of a society gone hysterically wrong, has had the opposite effect. Young’uns have taken to social media to shame and hang a label when politics or social stance or even a less than thoughtful comment somewhere don’t align with their own. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850’s novel lives on, not as a record of what we don’t do anymore, but as blueprint of how it was done back then before we had better tools.



I’m sad. Especially when the shamers carry the flag of diversity and inclusion. I guess tolerance does not apply to people who don’t think like them. I once knew a vegetarian who said he was ready to kill people who ate meat. No kidding. Totalitarian Liberals fall under the same flag, and with them, we’re all taken down.


This is my plea for real diversity: race, religion, identity, sexual preference, and varied political affiliation. All are welcome in my life.


And if I ever am called on such on social media, I hope I can manage the stress. Probably not. But then, you wouldn’t know because I will cease to be here.



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How to Popularize a Blog


Ahm...Not


As one whose blog is not the talk of the town, I am an authority on how not to have a blog that gets attention.



When I began blogging, it was at the urging of the small publisher who contracted my book. I had been following a few blogs, but not faithfully. One of my literate friends huffed that writers who blog are giving away their pearls for free, and another writing friend said it gobbled up precious real writing time. So I dipped my toes in with hesitation and little hope that I could do it right.


I looked at blogs that had many followers, and three things stuck out: they either were –
A. Constantly updated resources of useful information
B. Vociferously political bordering on the trolling side
C. Or they were enormously entertaining.



The resource-rich blogs are still staples of the blogosphere, and require work and dedication, as well as passion for the field they serve as resources for. I had to face that, for me, that sort of time and effort is reserved for writing fiction. What is left at the end of the day is all for family and friends.


A couple of examples of excellent resource blogs:


 the amazing Jane Freidman’s, about the business and the craft of writing —

And Evelyn Christensen’s, (technically not a blog but a website though a periodical E-zine makes it almost a blog,) about writing for the educational market—

[It helps, and gives the blog some gravitas, if the aggregator/editor is an authority in the field. Be it Tech-support, Make-up, travelling or writing.]




The political sorts of blogs are not only unsuitable for me, (I am hopelessly centrist there) but I personally have the impediment of becoming nauseous in their vicinity. This is why I won’t give examples of such, though I doubt you need it.




So that left the enormously entertaining, and there I continue to try with occasional success, (minus the “enormously”) which is where my modest weekly strolls have found me.


The thing is, I have found it pleasant and worthwhile, and that’s the best part of doing anything. That’s a variation of “doing it right,” which is right for me right now.



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Heroes— Faux or Fearless



Courage is not the towering oak 
that sees storms come and go;
It is the fragile blossom 
that opens in the snow.
Alice Mackenzie Swaim

Not only the news, but also all fiction (save some literary strains) focuses on active heroism. Rescue someone from a fire, face a serial killer, stand up to a bully and punch ‘em back, and a story worth the readers’ time is also deemed worth telling.

Thus, we lose the heroes of everyday that are all around us. Those who carry on while others give them nary a glance, those who continue to think independently in times and places where pressure to conform is overwhelming. As they remain authentic, they do not convert this independence to a ruckus riot.

And most of all, those who retain their creativity and humanity while humbly considering others’ feedback, but not breaking under the weight of negation.

So many of the people in my life are heroes. I salute them. Maybe we should write more stories about them. The quiet blossoms in the snow.




Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Placebo as the Real Deal


PLACEBO:

Noun: placebo; plural noun: placebos
1.     A harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect.
"His Aunt Beatrice had been kept alive on sympathy and placebos for thirty years"
2.     A substance that has no therapeutic effect, used as a control in testing new drugs.
3.     A measure designed merely to calm or please someone.
 {{From the Latin meaning "I shall please"}




I have a friend who is a retired physician. She insists that most doctors don’t know much most of the time. But she also says that appearing to be in the know and having a Ms./Mr. Fix-it demeanor is half of the treatment right there.


This didn’t make me happy to hear. We pay a lot of good money for what might be a fifty percent pretend.


In an article in the New York Times Magazine (November 10, 2018) the question as to whether placebo is part of the cure seems to be settled. The power of the mind was scientifically vindicated, sending the western scientific method into uncharted territory.



Seems to me this pertains to the rest of our endeavors. It tells me that if I think I can, I am already halfway there. In certain instances, I am all the way there.


So marching on, and encouraging ‘y’all to believe. Not in fairies, but in the power of the tales they tell.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Greeting a NEW YEAR


To the purely rational mind, January first is just another day. This year it is a Tuesday. Another Tuesday.

But the change of a digit on the year-counter has an almost magical effect on the parts of us that are not purely rational.

A new year, and a parade of new hopes and dreams.



Some take stock in the year that just ended, achievements and regrets. I find myself doing that on the Jewish New Year, (Rosh Hashanah) as the ten days that follow it are meant to be days of reflection culminating in atonement. The secular New Year (Gregorian counter) is a time for renewed oomph and hope. No resolutions, just a vow to march on with stars in my eyes.


On January first, the verses of Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) Song of Hope are singing in my ears:

O sweet To-morrow! - 
After to-day 
There will away 
This sense of sorrow. 
Then let us borrow 
Hope, for a gleaming 
Soon will be streaming, 
Dimmed by no gray - 
No gray! 

While the winds wing us 
Sighs from The Gone, 
Nearer to dawn 
Minute-beats bring us; 
When there will sing us 
Larks of a glory 
Waiting our story 
Further anon - 
Anon! 

Doff the black token, 
Don the red shoon, 
Right and retune 
Viol-strings broken; 
Null the words spoken 
In speeches of rueing, 
The night cloud is hueing, 
To-morrow shines soon - 
Shines soon!

Happy New Year!