I am a podcast Listener now! Also am halfway through a number of books

Hello friends. I haven’t posted in a week or so, for no particular reason. My reading and writing continues apace. Probably the biggest change in my life is that I’ve gotten into this whole listening to podcasts thing that everyone loves to do these days.

Essentially I was pondering rereading Plutarch, since now I have a much better understanding of the historical context for some of these figures. But then I was like, wait, maybe I ought to fill in some gaps. One of the main areas of classical history I don’t know much about is the time between the third punic war and the rise of Julius Caesar, when the Republic fell into disarray and periodic dictatorship, even as Rome conquered most of the Mediterranean. Fortunately, there is a popular book, that I just happened to own, about this period in time: Mike Duncan’s The Storm Before The Storm. The book is incredible, laying out the economic and social and political context for the fights between various Roman factions. And I learned that the author runs a well-known history podcast. Actually two, one (now concluded) on the history of Rome. And a second about famous revolutions. I’ve been listening to the first volume of the latter, which is about the English Civil War, and I have to say it’s one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had. The narrator is so personable, so clear, and builds the story in just the way I like, with some focus on the events and people, but also with plenty of analysis and context. It’s excellent. So far the series has covered the American Revolution, French Revolution, Haitian Revolution, Latin American Wars of Independency, France’s July Days, France’s 1870 Revolution, The Revolutions of 1848, and is now charting a very, very, very long course through Russia’s revolutionary history.

I’ve also looked into some other podcasts. I listened to one episode of the Freakonomics podcast and also found it pleasant. Anyway, this has really cut into my TV watching, which is the other thing I’ve been doing. I recently listened to Emily Nussbaum’s essay collection. This author, who’s the TV critic for the New Yorker, just made me realize…I don’t know, there’s something to this TV thing. It got me excited about TV. So I’ve been watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical comedy / drama that people have been recommending for ages, but which I somehow bounced off of initially. And, it’s good. I think it has a really smart and subtle portrait of friendships and relationships. The smartest thing it does is just lean into the lack of chemistry between the lead, Rebecca, and her erstwhile ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan. They’re just not really right for each other, and Rebecca always has to kind of force it. Rebecca is also just…not really emotionally stable. She makes terrible decisions, and those decisions reliably drive the plot. It’s very interesting!

Writing has more or less continued. I have been taking weekends off lately. Not that I have no time to write on weekends, but it’s an effort, and it’s much nicer to just vegetate, to read, and to take care of the baby. It’s very new for me to be taking weekends off though. Feels odd. Feels wrong. Not sure how long it will continue.

I am halfway through a lot of books right now: Don Juan, the Epigrams of Martial, an anthology of poetry about movies, an anthology of twentieth century American poetry, a translation of Aesop’s fables, and probably other books too that I am forgetting! It’s also weird for me to be so scattered! I am learning a lot, and I am improving, but I also feel a little adrift.

I do have my two projects though. The cynical guide to the publishing industry, coming out May 6th. It’s looking very nice. I can’t believe how cohesive the book is, and the degree to which it tells a comprehensive story. Generally when people like me release self-published advice guides, we just republish old essays from our blogs. I didn’t do that here. I wrote an entirely new guide, with entirely new content. The whole thing might be insane, offensive, and wrong-headed, but there is nothing else like it out there! Hard to believe it’s really coming out.

I am also working on my literary book. Am in the stage where I am pausing my rewrite to do a rewrite, except that I am now pausing that rewrite to rewrite the rewrite. That means the draft is a mess. Even though it’s only twenty thousand words, it’s got pieces in it from three different conceptions of the story. Nonetheless, it is coming along. I did some work on it this morning. I feel good about it! I think part of the reason I’ve slowed down a little is just…fear. Say what you want about the agent search, but you can always rewrite the book and send it out to new agents. You can even rewrite it and send it to agents who’ve already rejected it! If we include the draft I sent to my last agent, I now have four drafts of this book that have gone out to agents.

You don’t necessarily get that kind of chance with publishers. Yes, you can rewrite between the first and the second round of submission, but at some point it’s done. You really have to be as good as possible right from the get-go. It’s a lot of pressure!

Finally, I am enjoying having an agent again. Christopher is great. I feel lucky to have him onboard. Aaaaaaaaand, that’s probably about all I have in terms of updates. Hope you all are doing well.

Oh, Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong, that’s another book I’m halfway through. Wow, maybe I ought to just sit down and read books all day until some of these are cleared off.

nativity painting of people inside a dome
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