Friday, June 20, 2014

Getting Back to It

This was my backyard for October.
When last we met, dear readers, I was ensconced in a cottage in Scotland and finally getting to work full-steam ahead on what should be the final draft of my novel. The month-long retreat worked wonders. I got 35,000 words written in October, returned home at the end of the month and basically did not come up for air until March. I wrote over 100,000 words between October and March, which is an unheard of pace for me. And then I collapsed. Seriously just collapsed. And am just now recovering from the outpouring of words and working my way through the revisions to this draft. It's taking a lot more time than I had hoped and I'm having moments of despair and lots of self-doubt and having to talk myself down from giving up quite frequently. I haven't yet. And I know I won't. I think a lot of it has to do with being so single-mindedly focused on it that, when I paused, I found it difficult to remember what I used to do when I wasn't working on the book. And when I wasn't working on the book, all I could think about was the book. A lot of things, like this blog, went by the wayside.

We saw Shetland ponies
And sheep
In addition to the focus on the book, I found it taking a surprising amount of effort to adjust to life without Kid #1 in the house. TK went to college this past year. In Scotland. Which has worked out surprisingly well. He loves it and turned into the kind of super student we'd only dreamed about while he was in high school (like starting to work on end-of-term papers two months in advance, like studying for final exams). We had a fantastic family vacation in September, and I got that month in the cottage in October. TK and I also took a weekend in the Shetland Islands which was, in a word, AMAZING. I'd wanted to go to the Shetlands since I did my semester abroad my junior year in college (I'd foolishly decided it was too expensive to go that far north, failing to consider that, since I was already in the UK, any return visit would require including the airfare in the cost). So TK and I took the overnight ferry from Aberdeen on a Friday night, arrived in Lerwick at 7 am Saturday morning, checked into the youth hostel and drove north to Unst, the northernmost point in the UK -- 500 miles south of the North Pole. The weather was glorious.
And peat bogs
And abandoned crofter's cottages.
And standing stones -- possibly from the Picts
who inhabited the islands prior to the Vikings, but no one really knows
And a replica of a Viking longboat that had been
sailed from Bergen, Norway, to the Shetlands.

And Jarlshof, which is the most amazing archaeological site I've ever seen. Although the site on the southern tip of the mainland island had been occupied almost continuously for more than 4,500 years, nothing was known about the site except for the presence of the Laird's House (Lord's House) that was built in the 1500's until a storm in the late 1890's uncovered evidence of some extensive ruins dating from the first century A.D. Excavations soon revealed the presence of a Neolithic dwelling (2500 BC), a Bronze Age settlement (2000 to 800 BC), successive Iron Age settlements (1 BC), an Iron Age broch (tower) from the first centuries AD, wheelhouses from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, a Norse settlement from 800 - 1200 AD, a medieval farm from the 1200s, and the Laird's House that was built in 1580. 
The Neolithic dwelling with midden pit to the right
and hearth (dark brown circle) to the left.
Bronze age dwellings.

Wheel house - the walls were about 13 feet high and sloped inward
to allow a thatch roof to be laid over the opening.

Ruins of the Viking long house. 

Without a doubt, Jarlshof is one of the most stunning, amazing, evocative places I have ever been. It was bitterly cold and raining while we were there, but TK and I still spent over an hour walking around the ruins and exploring. 

And then there was Shetland itself, which was beautiful and kept revealing a gorgeous vista with every turn in the road. I can't wait to go back, if you can't tell. 

So now I am back and have been working on the novel. With any luck, I will be done with it by the end of July, and then I can relax a bit before starting on the next novel.