Wheel of Time TV Series Pre-Hype Thoughts

I have not been paying attention to the developments and under-current of hype surrounding Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time series. I sort of forgot that it was coming out this year until I saw the below trailer. I haven’t looked at casting choices (although I recognize a few faces), I haven’t read any theory-blogs about how they’re going to tell this massive, sweeping story on-screen, and I have no idea if it will be any good.

And I’m slowly getting more and more excited for this series to debut.

I think that’s largely because I know so little about The Wheel of Time show. I’ve read exactly one piece about this show over on MLS Weech’s blog, which got me excited and inspired me to write this post. I have no pre-conceived notions of what this show should be. I just want it to be good.

I also don’t want them to speed-run to the series finale in 20 hours. This is the type of series that deserves several seasons of earnest plot- and character-building before they streamline the ending. However, unless Amazon is planning to do this for 25 seasons, this series just feels too massive to be done faithfully on TV. (If any streamer could commit to a 25-year plan for a series, it’s probably Amazon.) I’m honestly excited to see how they fit that much plot into a television format. I’m currently on book 11 out of 14 in the book series, so as long as I can finish the series before the show ends, I’d be satisfied.

To me, the story is pretty straightforward through book three, The Dragon Reborn, but once the two primary groups of main characters splinter into their own individual narratives, the storylines become more complicated, so many more characters are introduced, and the sub-plots-within-sub-plots become more convoluted.

Somehow, Brandon Sanderson was able to corral all of that narrative bloat into a three-book finale really well, so I’m hoping the showrunners for the TV show take a few pages from his book on telling a sprawling story in a concise form, without losing the flavor.

The one other thing I’d like to see with this show is a serialized release. Rather than dropping X episodes on their platform at once, I’d like to see Amazon release the show one episode at a time, similar to what Disney+ has done with its Star Wars and Marvel shows. The Wheel of Time deserves to be “event TV”, and releasing it per episode will help make each new installment feel like an event.

Two of my cousins-in-law are also eager to watch the show, so I’m hoping we can all experience it together — at least virtually.

Okay, now I’m getting a little hyped. Let’s check back after the first couple episodes, shall we?

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

September Write Day: Stretch Goals

August was pretty chill, despite the blazing heat for most of the month. I was on paternity leave for three weeks, having only returned to work on Monday, meaning I was off for almost the entire month. It was great to really disconnect from work and just spend time at home.

The infant is doing well. He’s grown more than two pounds in his first few weeks, and the toddler is adjusting to his new baby brother well… so far.

I’m happy with the progress I made on both writing and reading, and we (meaning I, since my wife has been recovering from childbirth) managed to get a lot done around the house.

Let’s get to it!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Actually enjoy paternity leave.
  2. Write 8,000 words.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?

Enjoy paternity leave?

I did! There was little sleep to be had, but it was great being home with the family all day. The toddler is really sweet with his baby brother, saying hi and goodbye to him and even kissing him on the forehead at bedtime.

We do not expect that to last. As soon as the baby is crawling around and grabbing at all the toddler’s toys, it will be a different story. For now, though, it’s lovely.

It has been a long time since I’ve been able to completely disconnect from work for such a long stretch. I have the type of job where even a week-long vacation can be interrupted by an “urgent” meeting that I call into from the basement of a beach rental wearing only a bathing suit.

So being required by law to not respond to any work messages, turning off email and chat notifications on my phone, and not being called with “emergency” questions worked wonders for my mental health. My supervisor also did a great job protecting me from any such nonsense while I was out.

Write 8,000 words?

Yes! I beat my goal! I wrote 8,409 words in August, and I had actually been somewhat hoping for even more.

I got off to a good start and was never out of reach of my goal. There were still a few too many gaps between writing days for my liking, but I’m just picky like that. I wrote 18 of 31 days, and I had a good spread of volume, ranging from 44 words to 900+ with a good mix in between. That means that even when I struggled to write much, I was able to rebound pretty quickly.

The one downside to being able to focus on writing so much without work is that I now wish more than ever that I could write full-time. I’m not financially prepared for such an endeavor, but it will definitely linger in the back of my mind. Even if I can retire a few years “early” to focus on writing, that would be awesome.

Mini Update on Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1

My draft for this story now sits at just over 40,000 words, and I anticipate another 3-4k to finish the story. I ended up writing a large portion of this draft from scratch, scrapping entire chapters from my previous draft because of changes I decided to make to the plot.

I definitely want to finish this draft quickly, but then I want to reread and revise it a couple times to ensure I have the main plot points and details worked out. That will be the goal for September before I begin the second draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2.

That’s the title I’m probably going with, by the way.

Read 3 books?

Not quite. I read two books in August, both of which I published reviews for: one a historical fiction set in Roman Dacia, and the other being Jurassic Park.

I’m about 80% done with another story on Audible and will definitely finish it in the next few days. I didn’t read much in print copies, but with a week-long beach vacation coming up, I plan to remedy that.

Goals for September

  1. Finish current draft of Uprooted and write 5,000 words. I don’t know exactly how much I’ll need to write to complete THW1, but 5k should get me there. If I finish the draft having only written 3.5k words, I’ll be satisfied. I’m also not planning on writing much more than that because we have a busy month, including the aforementioned beach vacation, where I will be staring at the ocean instead of a computer screen.
  2. Read through Uprooted. This will be a self-editing phase for this story. I already have some notes I want to make, but this will help me see the entire story together as one piece, rather than the little sections I’ve been writing for months. I will likely print out my manuscript so I can read and mark with red pen while on vacation.
  3. Read 4 books. With one book nearly completed, this shouldn’t be too hard. The bigger difficulty may be in deciding which books to read. I might be ready to jump back into The Wheel of Time.

Steve D

Book Review: JURASSIC PARK delivers thrills and layered plot-building

I just finished listening to Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton on Audible, a book I probably should have read years ago, but I’m glad I finally checked it off my list.

Jurassic Park the movie is one of my favorites ever, so I was excited to finally read the original novel that inspired it — and compare how the film adaptation differed from the novel.

I really enjoyed this book and basically couldn’t put it down for a few days. Overall, the characters each had unique voices, and the plot was compelling.

To my surprise and enjoyment, the first part of the novel builds up the background of Ingen, Hammond, and some other key players. There is a fair amount of techno jargon, but Crichton writes it in such a way that is accessible and, just as importantly, believable, at least as far as science fiction can be believed. These sections serve to enliven the story as it progresses, providing the reader with much-needed context to feel the weight of the story.

These early sections are then interspersed with vignettes of doctors or others encountering unidentified “lizards”, but none of the characters are able to piece together the clues. In this way the tension very slowly builds.

By the time the main characters arrive at Isla Nublar to tour the park, the reader is nearly overwhelmed with dread over the mystery “lizards” terrorizing the local population, the industrial espionage of a rival bioengineering company, and the shady, or perhaps negligent, designs of Hammond and the creators of Jurassic Park.

The story is incredibly layered with detail about all of the flaws with the park. There is no fatal flaw, but there are many tiny ones that create a perfect storm of a disaster, isolating the characters on this island in a nightmare scenario.

The action was thrilling but not overwhelming, and the plot kept pace as the situation continued to unravel. Ian Malcom’s continuous diatribes about chaos theory could be tiresome for some readers, but I found these more philosophical sections quite engaging.

The narration of the audiobook was great as well.

Regarding the film versus the novel, I find it quite remarkable how well the film adheres to the spirit of the novel, even if several key characters and plot points are either changed or omitted entirely. Those types of changes are to be expected when adapting such a detailed novel to film, but it only makes me enjoy the movie more knowing that it is a worthy reflection of Crichton’s story, even if it looks a little different.

Steve D

The Quintessential World-Building Tool

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

If you know anything about me, you probably know that I like to use spreadsheets to organize myself, whether it’s story outlines, word count trackers (until recently), or timelines, the spreadsheet is my bread-and-butter organization tool.

So you’d better damn believe I have a spreadsheet laying out the entire millennia-spanning timeline of my fantasy universe, Úr’Dan.

Which brings me to the quintessential world-building tool, in my view: the Historical Timeline.

The Historical Timeline

When I talk about a historical timeline as a world-building tool, I’m not really referring to the timeline as a tool for the reader. It is a tool for you, the writer, to aid in your efforts to give depth to your fantasy universe.

Even if you only have a few key events laid out that underpin your fantasy universe — a recent war, a plague that is sweeping the countryside, or the death of a prominent figure — it is essential that you understand not just how and why these events happened, but when.

And a simple timeline, or an outline of a timeline, can help you organize key events to tell your story accurately. After all, referencing historical events in the course of your story through dialogue or, where appropriate, exposition adds greater depth to your fantasy universe, but only if you can consistently describe when and how something happened.

My Historical Timeline

As I said at the top, I use a spreadsheet to organize a millennia-spanning historical timeline for my entire fantasy universe, called Úr’Dan. This spreadsheet is organized into four columns:

  • Year, or whatever reckoning of time is used in your fantasy universe. There are actually four distinct calendars used in Úr’Dan, so my timeline references each.
  • Name of the event. How is this event known in your story? Consider whether different groups refer to the same event by different names.
  • Peoples involved, referring to which larger ethno-cultural groups in my story were involved in or impacted by a particular event.
  • Description, providing just a few sentences summarizing what the event was, and maybe what it’s immediate impact was.

Additionally, I use color-coding to provide a quick visual differentiator between general types of events:

  • Events referred to only in myth or legend
  • Wars, battles, or other conflicts
  • Founding or construction of cities, fortifications, or other significant places
  • Birth/Death of prominent figures
  • Treaties or alliances
  • Other significant events, trends, discoveries. This is a catch-all category that can include things like mass migrations of people, the invention or prevalent use of a particular type of technology, or notable weather events.

Finally, I also include rows for each of my stories, just so it’s obvious where they each fit into my timeline.

All told, I have 91 rows in my timeline so far, spanning about 1,000 years of “history”, plus significant events of myth, such as those covered in my mythology of Úr’Dan. Many of these events are focused on a few ethno-cultural groups or time periods that I’ve already put a lot of thought into, so one of my ongoing goals is to add more events and flesh out the histories of all of the peoples of my fantasy universe.

The more historical events you can talk about from your timeline, the more space you have for potential stories.

Steve D