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





Friday, March 31, 2023

March 2023 Update #5

 I'm still working on chapter 20 ("The Largest Stones") which I started a week ago. Progress has been interrupted by various things, e.g. the Zoom workshops I ran over the weekend, video and print research as to what Gwernin and friends would see at Avebury, and my virus software's desire to change some things yesterday (which involved spending half an hour or so on a call with tech support and totally blew my creative concentration for the rest of the day). However, I hope to finish #20 today or tomorrow. Then on to the last third of the book, during which Gwernin will stand in bardic competitions in hopes of finally becoming a Master Bard. As they say on Time Team, join me after the break. :)

Main references this last week:

Avebury (English Heritage) by Caroline Malone

 'Beyond the Stones' : 35th Anniversary of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site,


Thursday, March 23, 2023

March 2023 Update #4

Well, the weather is back to spring, and I actually have some crocuses and violets blooming. Chives are coming up all over, and so is the catnip. I'm ready for spring!

 I finally finished chapter 19 ("Rough Justice") yesterday. Part of this involved moving the last section of chapter 18 into 19, as 18 was really too long. That essentially bumped part of the planned material for chapter 19 into chapter 20 ("The Largest Stones"), which I started this morning. These things happen!

When I write a chapter, or indeed a scene in one, I try to write it without trying to get everything right (no pun intended). Then I go back over it once or twice to make adjustments where needed and polish the wording, adding more descriptions where needed. This of course will be repeated for the whole manuscript after I finish the first draft, and may be more necessary than usual because of the several interruptions in writing it.

Main references this last week: 

First Steps in Old English by Stephen Pollington

An Introduction to Early English Law by Bill Griffiths  

Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition by Howell D. Chickering

Time Team S17-E07 Cunetio

Friday, March 17, 2023

March 2023 - Update #3

 Despite a few interruptions, I finished chapter 18 ("The Singer of Tales") this morning. Despite some exciting bits, Gwernin & friends have solved their Saxon problems and will be heading north again in the next chapter. This one was a bit long, and required some thought about early Anglo-Saxon law courts, as well as some praise poetry. 

We also had a little snow yesterday, but it's mostly gone now. Spring in Colorado! :)

Important references for the last week: 

An Introduction to Early English Law by Bill Griffiths 

Wordcraft: New English to Old English Dictionary and Thesaurus by Stephen Pollington

First Steps in Old English by Stephen Pollington



Thursday, March 9, 2023

March 2023 - Update #2

 The last week has been very productive. I spent a lot of time over the weekend plot sorting - deciding what should be in the rest of the book - and have things pretty well nailed down now. It's not a detailed outline - that would be boring for me - just a list of things that need to happen in each chapter, which is rather the way I did The King's Druid. After that I went on to finish chapter 16 - "An Old Enemy", and should finish chapter 17 ("The Saxon King") and start chapter 18 ("The Singer of Tales") today. That second one needs to get Gwernin et al out of their current problems. Taliesin will probably figure it out!

In other news, no measurable snow so far this month, but there's a lot of March - and April - left.

Most important references for the last week (aside, as usual, from the ordinance survey maps):

The towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher

Cloth And Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700 (CBA Research Reports) (CBA Research Reports) by Penelope Walton Rogers

Anglo-Saxon food and drink : production, processing, distribution and consumption by Ann Hagen

An Introduction to Early English Law by Bill Griffiths 



Friday, March 3, 2023

March 2023 Update #1

 After finishing two chapters last week, I came down with some sort of crud over the weekend, and haven't written anything so far this week. I'm hoping to get going again today, if slowly. After watching the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge in chapter 15, they're about to meet some unfriendly Saxons... one of whom Gwernin has met before.

Most important reference for last week: Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape by Francis Pryor

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

February 2023 update #5


A lot of writing progress in the last week - I should finish chapter 14 today! This takes Gwernin & company to Stonehenge, where they plan to watch the midsummer sunrise in the next chapter. This was not really a good decision on their part; Stonehenge (and Avebury, their next target) being in Anglo-Saxon territory, in the expanding kingdom of Wessex. Complications may ensure.

Pertinent reference for this chapter:

Wessex in the early Middle Ages by Barbara Yorke, London : Leicester University Press, 1995.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

February 2023 update #4

 Since the last update, I've really got going on the writing. Finished chapter 11 (The Two Wells) on Friday; chapter 12 (Camlann Field) on Sunday, subject to a little tinkering; and I've got the larger part of chapter 13 (In Arthur's Hall) done already. After that I'll have to see what goes in chapter 14, which will be transitional to the next set of linked chapters. Those will involve some people Gwernin has met before. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Februry 2023 #3

 After spending several days on the Taliesin project, I'm finally back to The Old Gods Endure. I spent a lot of time proof reading the manuscript to date, fixing a number of minor issues, and redoing the chapter formatting, then managed 285 words on chapter 11. I hope to finish that chapter by this time next week, hopefully sooner.

I've also changed the header on this blog to match my business cards. The ogam letters on the branch spell out "tre gwernin", which means "Gwernin's home".

Friday, February 3, 2023

February #2 - An unexpected detour

 I have been putting in a lot of writing time the last few days, but not on The Old Gods Endure. Instead I've  been combing back through the Storyteller books to date and The King's Druid for snippets about Taliesin. I was beginning to have the feeling of potentially painting myself into a corner which led to my writing The Druid's Son in order to get Mac Criomthann's background straight. I don't plan (lol) to stop working on Old Gods in order to hare off and write Taliesin's story, but I've sorted out pertinent snippets into an timeline, and have only found a couple of minor contradictions to date. Now onward w/ Gwernin. :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

February 2023 #1

 Only 80 words so far on Chapter 11, but I hope to write more today. The last week was dedicated to research, plus coping with some very cold weather (highs in the teens F). The next week should be better. Currently useful references have included Geoffrey Ashe's Arthurian Britain, and the next three chapters will deal partly with Taliesin's experiences before and after Camlann.

Monday, January 23, 2023

January 2023 #3 update

 Chapter 10 is coming slowly, but it's coming. I need to finish it this week. At least I've mostly got last week's snow shoveled, and can concentrate on other things. 

Chapter titles so far, btw:

1. Llys-tyn-wynnan
2. Pengwern
3. setting out
4. the hound lord
5. the hill above the yew wood
6. the town outside the walls
7. the place of many gods
8. the waters of the goddess
9. the third time
10. the cave of ghosts

As usual with my Storyteller books, I'm planning on 31 chapters, so you can see I have a way to go!

Update 1/25/23: finished chapter 10 today. Now I have to do more research...

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Very slow progress


Mostly tinkering and thinking this week as far as the new book goes. I have got the party as far as Cheddar Gorge, where they are about to be trapped overnight by flooding. Chapter title: the Cave of the Ghosts.

Last Saturday Rowen and I attended the SCA's Caerthe 12th night - the first time I'd made it there in about four years - and I sold some books. Most of the sales were to people who hadn't seen my books before, and were either Storyteller, The Druid's Son, or one or more of the poetry collections. This is good so far as getting new readers, although I had expected more interest in The Fallen Stones. I need to follow up by finding more opportunities to merchant this year.

Monday, January 9, 2023

A New Year beginning...

 Well, having got through all the winter holidays (and the associated winter weather), I am finally starting again on chapter 10. At this rate, I will be lucky to finish the book this year, but we'll see. I'm not sure I am going to keep the present cover image, but haven't found anything so far that I prefer.