Thursday, June 8, 2023

June 2023 - Update #2

 I finished chapter 31 on Monday - a short one, with lots of hints about what happens next, and another unexpected gift for Gwernin from his prince. That completes the manuscript's first draft. In the intervening two days I've created a map, updated the appendices, and started the initial proofreading (I've already found one minor error where someone's name changed from "Ieuan mab Iago" to "Ieuan mab Pawl" between chapters, but this was an easy fix, and the chapters were after all written two or three weeks apart). The book should be ready for the "first readers" by the end of the month. I've set up a preorder page for the ebook version on Smashwords, and will be uploading a rough version to Lulu soon to check for problems there. This is only part of the work involved in producing a book like this as a self-publisher!

I also spent much of yesterday updating this website. Considering I started it sixteen years ago, and didn't really use it for a couple of years until I started this regular blogging, I found that a lot of links were broken or outdated. There are still some things I need to fix, but I think most of the stuff on the right sidebar is in better shape now.

In other news, the garden is growing, and as we had a couple of days without rain, I finally got the grass mowed. And the roses have started blooming. Summer at last!

Thursday, June 1, 2023

June 2023 - Update #1

 I finally finished chapter 30 ("An Unexpected Gift") yesterday, and started chapter 31 ("Llys Tyn Wynnan"), the last chapter in the book, which takes Gwernin home again after his summer of traveling. This chapter includes a hint of things to come in the next book, The Well of Wisdom. Chapter 30 also had hints of future plot developments in the shape of intentionally loose ends.

I've also been keeping another outline of things Taliesin has told us about his life in the books so far. I think this will eventually be another spin-off prequel, provisionally titled King Arthur's Bards, but unlike The King's Druid, it won't overlap the Storyteller books.

Celtic things come in threes. In the case of the Storyteller books, three trilogies. The first, the "Young
Gwernin" trilogy
, consists of Storyteller, Flight of the Hawk, and The Ash Spear. The second trilogy, "Gwernin's Quests", consists of The Fallen Stones, The Old Gods Endure, and The Well of Wisdom. The third trilogy will be "The Fall of the North", and will consist of The Last True King, Three Hundred Spears, and The Fall of the North.Yes, I have had all this planned out for a long time.

I didn't quite finish the first draft of The Old Gods Endure by the end of May, but I came very close - I only need another 2,000-3,000 words to finish the last chapter, and that will be easy writing. I will be looking for first readers / proofreaders in a month or two.

In other news, the tomatoes are all planted, and I really should mow the grass again this week. No new reference books this week, as I'm just tying things up in places I've already been.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

May 2023 - Update #4

 I finally finished chapter 29 ("Closing the Circle") last Saturday. Chapter 30 ("An Unexpected Gift") will be the next to last one, and has been going slowly. I knew part of what needs to be there - the part which gives the chapter its name - but had to think about what else I needed, and in what order. 824 words so far, but I should have it done before this time next week, and possibly chapter 31 as well. It's a strange feeling to be so near the end of the first draft, although there will still be a lot more work to do on the book. The planned publication date is Samhain - November 1st. And I want to have Storyteller book #6 - The Well of Wisdom - at this stage by this time next year. That one, as has been hinted more than once in this one, will take Gwernin et al back to Ireland again. After that there is a longer time break in the series, and 3 more planned books set in the Old North. Not sure what I'll do after that, but I'm sure I'll think of something!

Gardening is coming along well - one of the things which has made writing slow this week. It finally stopped raining every day and I was able to deal with the knee-high dandelions in the front yard. I've planted the lemon cucumbers and some of the tomatoes, and direct-seeded peas and  some of the beans. The rate-determining step is the need to clear out the stuff which has come up in the pots, since I mostly do container gardening nowadays. No great hurry though, beyond planting the rest of the beans, as the tomatoes are all still small.

References in the last week:

Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales by Hywel Wyn Owen and Richard Morgan (again)

The Tain by Thomas Kinsella

Stories from the Táin by John Strachan


Thursday, May 18, 2023

May 2023 - Update #3

 I am still plowing my way through chapter 29. There have been some interruptions - another regular vet appointment (between my 4 cats and Rowen's 3, it adds up to a lot of trips), the desperate need to mow at least some of the taller grass between thunderstorms, and the fact that the two weekend farmers' markets we like to attend have now started, removing some of my early morning writing time on Saturdays and Sundays. Chapter 29, like the preceding chapter, is a bridge between the excitement of the bardic competitions and Gwernin's return home. The title is "Closing the Circle", reflecting this sense of completion, both in Gwernin's bardic achievements and in many of his other experiences during the summer. It's also involved a fair amount of map work, which slows me down. Only two more chapters after this one, which should be easier.

In other news, the little tomato seedlings are growing happily in the cold frame, and I will probably be planting the lemon cucumbers in a day or so. Unusually, we haven't had a May frost this year, but I'm told that if the weather had been 10 degrees colder during the 36 hours and 3 to 6 inches of rain last week, it would have translated into 4 to 5 feet of snow! Every morning I praise the Steerers of Storms for their mercy, thank them for the moisture, and ask that the incipient thunderstorms don't contain "hard white bits". There's a reason that during summer rituals here in Denver we use the word "praise" rather that "h**l".😀

Not a lot of new references this last week, other than maps:

Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales by Hywel Wyn Owen and Richard Morgan.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

May 2023 - Update #2

 I finally finished chapter 28 ("The Bluestones") yesterday, in which Taliesin tells us more about Emrys and his own early life. This is something which has been building in scraps throughout this book and indeed the previous one, and I spent most of a day sorting out the timeline, trying to avoid contradictions and make sure "A", so to speak, doesn't come after "B". I finally started chapter 29 yesterday, provisionally titled "The Road Home". Only two more chapters after that, so I could have a first draft finished by the end of this month. Then comes the tedious editing reread, which will probably last a couple more months. Somewhere around August 1st I will be looking for proofreading volunteers <grin>. The total manuscript length should be about 350 pages, plus appendices, TOC, etc. My target publishing date is Samhain (November 1st). Then I can start on the next book...

In other news, my little tomato seedlings are outside now in my cold frame and doing well. I meant to include a picture of them, but it started raining yesterday and hasn't stopped. As I noted on my Facebook page, a flood watch warning is at least a change from a fire weather warning.

Selected references: 

Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales by Hywel Wyn Owen [something I shared with my Welsh language class last week, which fits the atmosphere of a number of parts of this book]

A Welsh Classical Dictionary by Peter C. Bartrum

Wales and the Britons, 350-1064 (History of Wales) by T. M. Charles-Edwards

and a number of maps, paper and on-line, of course


Thursday, May 4, 2023

May 2023 - Update #1

 In the last week I wrote chapter 27 very quickly, most of it in two days, because there was a dramatic situation I needed to resolve. The final chapter title is "The End of the Matter". After that I took a day off, only polishing it a little. I've started chapter 28 ("The Bluestones") but haven't got very far yet - after the dramatic end of chapter 27 I needed to pause for a day or so and decide what comes next (aka "let my head fill up again"). Then there were other interruptions - annual vet appointment for Blackberry yesterday followed by shopping, etc. I have a dentist appointment this morning (in about an hour), but maybe I can make some progress this afternoon. The bluestones of the title, btw, are the sites in the Preseli Mountains where the Stonehenge bluestones originated. After that, Gwernin and friends will be on their way home, with a surprise ending for Gwernin.

In other news, about half of my tiny tomato seedlings plus the lemon cucumbers seedlings are outside now in 3" pots. We have been frost-free for about a week now, and the 10 day forecast shows lows in the 40s, but it's never safe to bet on that for the rest of May. By the end of the month my little plants can go directly into their big pots in the garden.

Not much in the way of new references in the last week - it's mostly been map work and thinking, plus a little on-line research.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

April 2023 - Update #4

 In the last week I finally finished chapter 25 ("the road west"), then wrote almost all of chapter 26 ("the third competition") in two days. It just needs a little polishing today. Gwernin did win his mastery, but in a way I hadn't expected - this is what happens when you're writing in "taking dictation" mode! 😀 I'll be starting chapter 27 later today, the title of which keeps changing. At the moment, it's provisionally "some answers". I (and Gwernin etc) still have to deal with Bluchbardd - Dewi Sant (Saint David) may be involved. We'll see what the awen provides.

In other news, the weather continues in Denver's spring pattern - a couple of inches of overnight snow a few days ago, a couple of mild days, then a lot of rain Tuesday night which fortunately wasn't snow here (although the mountains got a lot).  I now have a windowsill full of tiny tomato plants plus two cucumber seedlings, the latter of which will need to be potted up and probably moved to the cold frame soon. It's about a month yet before they'd be safe in the garden, but they should be ready then.

Selected references for the last week:

A Welsh Classical Dictionary by Peter C. Bartrum

Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Welsh Triads by Rachel Bromwich

Wales and the Britons, 350-1064 (History of Wales) by T. M. Charles-Edwards

Law of Hywel Dda (Welsh Classics) by Dafydd Jenkins

The towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher

...and of course some Ordinance Survey maps!





Thursday, April 20, 2023

April 2023 Update #3

 In the last week I finished chapter 24 {"The Second Competition"), in which Gwernin came second and Bluchbardd made threats to our friends afterwards. After that, with some interruptions, I've been working on chapter 25 (currently titled "The Road West"), which will take Gwernin et al from Caerdydd to Carmarthen. I had to solve another plot problem dating from the third chapter of Storyteller, but it seems to be mostly sorted out now. I think this will be the last problem of this kind, as after this chapter Gwernin's current itinerary won't overlap with his travels in past books. I also think that Bluchbardd, who is getting more and more erratic, may meet a bad end before the end of this book, but we'll see.

In other news, spring seems to have finally installed in Colorado, and I'm starting cucumber and tomato seeds.

Selected references:

Wales and the Britons, 350-1064 (History of Wales) by T. M. Charles-Edwards

Bugail Eryri: Pedwar Tymor Ar Ffermydd Mynydd by Keith Bowen

Pocket Guide to the Birds of Britain and North-West Europe by Chris Kightley


Thursday, April 13, 2023

April 2023 Update #2

 In the last week I finished chapter 22 ("the first competition"), set in Caerwent, where Gwernin competes but doesn't win, and where Bluchbardd, who we saw a lot of in the previous book, turns up again. I also finished chapter 23 ("the roots of hatred"), in which Gwernin et al visit Caerleon, where the first chapter of Storyteller took place. In this chapter Gwernin repeats a story he first told there, and Taliesin tells us how he first beat Bluchbardd in bardic contest (an episode very loosely adapted in tone and location from Chwedl Taliesin <grin>). I wrote these two chapters very fast, in the "taking dictation" mode, and was surprised by some of the poetry from Taliesin - I didn't plan it, I just typed!

Today I'm starting chapter 24 ("the second competition") set in Caerdydd. I'll tell you next week about Gwernin's success or lack of it!

Selected references: 

Wales and the Britons, 350-1064 (History of Wales) by T. M. Charles-Edwards

The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales by Patrick K. Ford

The towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher


Thursday, April 6, 2023

April 2023 Update #1

 I finished chapter 21 last Friday, and all but finished chapter 22 on Monday. However, I then had to turn my attention to Oak Leaves, ADF's quarterly magazine. By working frantically, I got a lot done on the layout for that on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. It doesn't go to the printers until after ADF's annual election finishes on the 15th, so after I find one more column, it will be just a matter of waiting for contributions from 3 other people and either writing an additional article myself or possibly inserting something from my past writing. Either way, I should be able to turn my attention back to Gwernin & company soon. 

I also had to decide where they're going next. In this manuscript so far, I had mentioned King Arthur as holding court at Caerleon in south Wales about five times. That was supposed to be Gwernin's next stop, where he first stands in bardic competition. However, it occurred to me that in the very first chapter of Storyteller, he describes visiting Caerleon and seeing it in utter ruins. His visit is less than 20 years after Camlann, so I had a problem. I could do one of the following: 1) assume that my readers will have forgot that first story by the time they get to this book (#5 in the series); 2) assume that Gwernin's memory is faulty, and that Caerleon was not in utter ruins, or at least not all of it; 3) find an alternate location. If #3, I had a couple more possibilities: 3a) Caerwent, which is nearby, and a reasonable alternative although a bit on the small side; 3b) Caerdydd, also nearby, which Gwernin visited after Caerleon and found in good shape. But I was planning to use Caerdydd for the second of three competitions he'll be standing in, so I needed somewhere else for the first one. 

In the end, after watching a couple more Time Team episodes and doing some reading, I settled on Caerwent -- a smaller Roman town, but at least one I hadn't already described as being an utter ruin <grin>. According to Time Team, it's the best preserved Roman town in Britain, because it never grew into a medieval city. I visited it once long ago myself, and can testify that most of the town walls are still standing and over ten feet high in places. Caerwent probably wasn't in good shape then either, but at least I haven't already described it as derelict! I changed Caerleon to Caerwent in the manuscript. Now on we go!

Selected references: 

The towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher

Time Team Season 19, Episode 9 Rome's Wild West Caerleon, Newport 

Britain's Best Preserved Roman Town In Caerwent, South Wales | Time Team