January Write Day: Keep Plugging Away

Man, another month, another year. December was a solid month. Our holidays were festive with plenty of time spent with family. We also got to experience our first real Christmas through our oldest son, who is three and at the perfect age to get excited for Santa and presents and Christmas lights and all that.

It was a decent month on the goals front as well.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 8,000 words for New Earth.
  2. Read through Uprooted.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?

Write 8,000 words?

Not quite. I tried to cram a bunch of writing into the final week of the month and came up short at just over 7,000 words. Still a decent output, overall. The first half of December had me stressing a bit about getting everything ready for our holiday celebrations, which knowingly kept me away from writing. I thought I could make up for it in the final week, but no such luck.

I still did all right, though.

New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 is progressing nicely at around 15,000 words, and I’ve hit a stretch where I already have a lot of content from my first draft I can pull from. That should help me stay on track and catch up a bit this month. I just want to get off to a stronger start and not fall behind again.

I did start to find a writing schedule again, slotting in time right after putting my oldest to bed, and then knuckling down on the weekends for bigger word count gains.

Read through Uprooted?

I seriously forgot about this goal. December was a busy month! I definitely want to complete this read-through, so perhaps I’ll have to pay to print it out — all 70-some pages of it – so I can focus on it when I’m away from my computer.

Read 3 books?

I’m going to say yes…? But let me check my Goodreads first.

Success! I finished three books in December, including book 12 of The Wheel of Time series, The Gathering Storm. Look out for that review next week. Spoiler alert: I loved it.

I also achieved my Goodreads 2021 goal of reading 24 books. That may sound paltry based on a lot of the book blogs I read, but that’s a lot for me, damn it! I’m aiming for 26 in 2022.

Goals for January

I feel like I rushed through this post, but this might be a good indication of where my head is at currently. I have a lot I want to achieve in the next few months, primarily finishing a solid draft of New Earth, and I just want to get down to it.

  1. Write 9,000 words. This feels achievable to me based on my writing progress the last two weeks, and it may be the start of escalating writing goals to start the year off. We’ll see how it goes.
  2. Read 3 books. Currently waiting for my copy of Towers of Midnight to arrive 😀
  3. Start working out again. My exercise routine really fell through the last couple months, so I want to get back on track. This is an open-ended goal for now until I can establish a decent routine again.

Happy New Year!

Steve D

NaNoWriMo Progress: Halfway Point

Every year, I seem to forget that by the time we get halfway through November, it’s a week before Thanksgiving, and the month is effectively over. National Novel Writing Month started off pretty well for me, and then took a nose-dive. I will be revising my goal for this month at the end.

While I wasn’t churning out 2,000 words per day, I was making solid progress on my draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 for the first ten days or so of the month. I saw early on that the 50,000-word pinnacle was slipping from my grasp even as I continued writing, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I was still writing every day, sometimes multiple times per day.

Then, two things derailed me simultaneously:

  1. My writing schedule got thrown off
  2. and I got sick

No writing schedule?!

Up until this month, I had been pretty diligent about logging off from my work laptop (working from home) and logging on to my home computer to write for short sessions in the evenings. This worked well, because my wife would pick up our toddler from daycare and start getting dinner ready while I had 20-30 minutes to write before spending the evening with them.

Then, our youngest son, the three-month-old, started daycare, and we flipped our schedules. Because my work schedule tends to be top-heavy with meetings each morning, we agreed that I would pick the kids up from daycare. It didn’t occur to me that this would erase that precious, if short, writing session I could lean on at the end of my work day.

Now, I logoff from work and pretty much immediately have to run out to get the kids.

I try to write at night after dinner, with some success, but I’ll need to find a new way to carve out time from my day. I’m considering writing early in the morning before I logon to work…

…but early mornings have never been easy for me.

The sickness

I caught a stomach bug over the weekend from my toddler that sapped my energy and basically took away 3.5 days of writing time. I’m still recovering, although doing much better.

It’s completely out of my own or anyone else’s control, but it was frustrating to lose a weekend to being sick — not just because of writing. I missed a family birthday celebration and basically didn’t move for three days.

NaNoWriMo the Second Half

So, here I am just over halfway through the month having written 7,000 words. There is no way I’m hitting 50,000 at this point, and I had accepted that even before I got sick. 7,000 would still rank in the top half of my monthly word count totals for this year, so it’s definitely not nothing.

However, I still want to finish strong. With Thanksgiving being my favorite holiday of feasting and family, I’m not going to have the pressure of writing over that weekend hanging over me. So I’m already cutting four more days of writing time in favor of other priorities.

That gives me about 10 days to eke out a writing schedule and make some more progress on this story.

Revised NaNo Goal: 15,000 words total

NaNo Stretch Goal: 20,000 words total

It’s always good to have a realistic goal and a stretch goal, just to motivate a bit more, so there it is. 15k feels doable to me, and if I’m really disciplined, 20k might be, too.

Steve D

Book Review: DAUGHTER OF BLACK LAKE brings family drama to the Iron Age

I listened to Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan recently and quite enjoyed it.

I was drawn to this story mostly by the setting, the concept of a fiction set in Iron Age Britain. Daughter of Black Lake is not a military story of Romans and druids and seething tribesmen, although these devices make their appearances throughout the story. Instead, this is essentially a family drama that switches point of view between a daughter and her mother as a girl, whose lives and those of the people of their village are intertwined across generations.

This POV switching feels unexpected at first, but you quickly settle into the differing viewpoints between Hobble and her mother, Devout, even though Devout is narrating a decade or more in the past.

They each tell their versions of events impacting their family, with Hobble able to “see” more than most people know. She is gifted as a seer.

The story follows them both as Devout comes to find love and choose her mate, and as Hobble learns the dangers that outside influences can have on her quiet village of bog-dwellers. This back-and-forth narrative is a really interesting way to see characters interact across generations, first as children and adolescents interacting with each other or their elders, and then as adults, trying their best to help their families and their village survive.

The setting is vivid with pre-Roman and pre-Christian rites, prayers, social structures, and behaviors that guide each character’s decisions. These traditions are then thrown into conflict with the encroachment of Roman soldiers into the region, whose very presence, though distant, hangs over the bog-dwellers as an ominous threat to their way of life.

Although I typically don’t get into village drama-style narratives, I enjoyed the story for what it was. The characters were well written and distinguished, and the story was compelling. Mostly, I just wanted to spend time in the boggy village of Black Lake. Buchanan’s description give just enough detail to paint a clear picture, and her world felt entirely accurate, even as an astute reader questions how much we really know about the traditions and beliefs of pre-Roman Britons.

I would definitely pick up another book by Buchanan set in the same era, regardless of the plot, just to be able to step back into this world.

Steve D