Random Thoughts on Infinity Wars

My son and I finally saw Avengers: Infinity Wars this past weekend. Fun movie. The following contains spoilers…and a few thoughts on the flick.

Thanos

He was done pretty well, both on the CGI and Brolin’s acting. Better than I expected, frankly. And having read Jim Starlin’s original Adam Warlock series years and years ago I was prepared to be disappointed.

But I gotta say, the Mad Titan’s rationale for wiping out half the universe was cooler in that old comic. Essentially, he did it b/c he was wooing Death. Based on this, it makes total sense as to why the movie’s creators didn’t run with Starlin’s original plot.

Nidavellir

In Norse myth, Nidavellir is one of the names for the home of the Svartalfar. The other is Svartalfheim. Nidavellir means the “low fields” or “dark fields.” See this site for more info.

In the movie, Nidavellir is both the home of the MCU’s giant dwarves and the forge where Mjolnir and now Stormbreaker were made. It was clever having the forge be a neutron star, but less so to have Tyrion Lanister play Eitri. (Though it was funny to have him be gigantic.)

Thor and Stormbreaker

First, Stormbreaker belongs to Beta Ray Bill!, Second, these dudes make a real Stormbreaker. If you’ve never watched Man at Arms Reforged then you’re missing out. Forged in Fire is good, too. I’ve learned quite a bit about blacksmithing and forging from those shows — enough to improve my fictional scenes that incorporate that stuff.

Eitri, Brokk and Sindri

The movie only includes Eitri, but there are other “dwarves” in Norse myth — there’s a long list of them in Voluspa (if memory serves). Two of the other important “dwarf” names are Sindri and Brokkr. All three are part of a myth that Snorri relates in the Prose Edda that deals with:

  • Loki cutting off Sif’s hair and getting forced to replace it
  • Loki wagering his head against the dwarves’ craftsmanship. Loki loses the bet, but through quick thinking keeps his head — only to get his mouth sewed shut. It’s a cool little tale.

The Svartalvar are heavily referenced in my first two books, they make an appearance in a “flashback” sequence (Kinsmen Die) and then directly appear in Book 3 (BK3). The Svartalvar are integral to the “mysterious device” plot arc that I introduced in Kinsmen Die.

And with that said, a future series that I’ve partially written (originally it was woven into the series I’m writing now) Eitri, Brokk and Sindri are three brothers who are “of the line of Sindri.”  That original Svartalvar is the one who forged/crafted the items used by the Aesir (as part of Loki’s wager) — Mjolnir, Gungnir, Draupnir, etc.

At the moment my Svartalvar are more like elves than dwarves, though I tried (and will continue trying) to avoid the Tolkien elf trope. Which is really a Svartalfar trope. Kinda.

That future series is equal parts prequel, contemporaneous and sequel to my current series. It’ll be fun pulling all the various threads together especially since I lose track of quite a few them until they reappear again…right before Ragnarok.

 

 

 

 

 

The Untrustworthy Odin

As I’ve mentioned before, the Odin of myth is very different than how he’s portrayed in the Marvel universe — which is fine, of course.

Dr. Karl Siegfried provides an excellent summary and analysis of the first Thor movie and how it both draws on and diverges from Norse myth. Find it here.

In this post, I provide a short summary of how Odin acquires the mead of poetry — a topic I slightly touched on here.

Summary of the Myth
In his Skaldskaparmal (Prose Edda), Snorri relates the tale of how the mead of poetry was hidden away by the giant Suttung who then set his daughter, Gunnloth, to guard it.

Odin wanted the mead so he went to the place where Suttung and his brother Baugi lived. Baugi’s nine workmen were out reaping. Disguised, Odin offered to sharpen the scythes of the workmen with a fancy honing stone. They agreed and, blades sharpened, recommenced cutting.

The scythes cut so well they asked if Odin would sell them the honing stone. He agreed and set a high price on it. All the giants wanted it, so Odin threw it up in the air and the giants in their desire for the stone killed each other.

Workmen dispatched, Odin went to Baugi’s hall where he found Baugi lamenting over his lack of workmen. Odin, naming himself Bolverk (Evil Doer), said he would do the work of all nine men. But he wanted recompense equal to his labor — a drink from the mead of poetry. Baugi said sure, but that he didn’t have control over the mead but knew where it was.

Odin gets to the mead by boring through rock to the chamber in which Gunnloth guards the mead. He seduces her and over three consecutive nights, drinks all the mead. Then he escapes, transforms into an eagle and flies back to Asgard.

In this last paragraph, I’ve combined Snorri’s account with the one in the Havamal. They differ somewhat in the details.

In the Havamal, Odin says that the giants then went to Asgard and asked if one named Bolverk was among them. Odin says no and, presumably, the giants mosey on back to Jotunheim.

And from the Havamal….

Stanza 110 in the Havamal reads (quoted from Bellows translation here):

On his ring swore Othin | the oath, methinks;
Who now his troth shall trust?
Suttung’s betrayal | he sought with drink,
And Gunnloth to grief he left.

The translator notes in this version of the Poetic Edda read: “Othin is keenly conscious of having violated the most sacred of oaths, that sworn on his ring.”

Dr. Jackson Crawford translates the Havamal (and the Poetic Edda) into more modern-day English. Here are a few examples of how Odin is aware of his “evil-doing” nature (the numbers refer to the stanzas):

  • 104: Referring to Gunnloth, Odin says, “I would later giver her a bad repayment for her trusting mind…”
  • 107: “I made good use of the disguise I used; few things are too difficult for the wise.”
  • 108: “I doubt I could have escaped…if I hadn’t used Gunnloth…”
  • 110: “I believe that Odin swore an oath to them — but who can trust Odin?”

I condense and relate all the above to show how Odin:

  • Disguises himself and lies.
  • Seduces and betrays.
  • Is totally aware of what he’s doing.

The mead of poetry myth also shows how Odin does all of the above to achieve his own ends. This is consistent with how he instigates war among men so that he can harvest the best warriors to fight on behalf of the gods and men at Ragnarok. More on this in a future post.

Dark Grows the Sun

Here’s the cover of my second book, Dark Grows the Sun. It’ll be published in about a year.

That’s Odin. Those are the Norns. Or were, at least. As I’ve mentioned before, my Odin is in the process of becoming the one recorded in our myths — or my interpretation of him, at least.

He’s not a kindly, wise, white-bearded old man who fades into golden sparkles on the wind. He’s got a brutal streak a mile wide. He can leap about |——| … and he has nasty, big, pointy — oh…wait…that’s something else entirely.

But, back to the cover. A few of those who I’d asked to provide their input on it had some reservations and pointed out some technical and consistency issues with respect to the art of Kinsmen Die.

And while I shared some of those reservations, here are a few reasons I went forward with this design:

  1. I liked it.
  2. The image is pretty powerful for multiple reasons. I’ll leave it at that 🙂
  3. I gave the artist several summaries of important scenes in the book. He chose this one and illustrated it. Even the first iteration was spot on to what happens in the book. If that was something that caught his imagination then maybe there’s merit in letting it ride — wasn’t like I had any better ideas at the time (or now, even).

I also had another reason for going with a different-looking cover:

  1. Sales of my first book are non-existent. Not unexpected but still disheartening.
    1. As an aside, a good friend of mine recently asked a pretty well-known author to provide some encouraging words to me since, as this blog shows, I’ve got a solid case of writer’s block.
    2. That author said that my writer’s block is because of those crappy book sales and that I needed to get over it. He’s right. And I’m working on it. Slowly.
  2. Why are sales of KD sales non-existent? A couple reasons, methinks:
    1. Nobody knows it exists
    2. People stumble across it and either:
      1. Aren’t drawn in by the cover
      2. Like the cover but don’t like the blurb
      3. Don’t like the whole thing.
  3. How can I can address these issues?
    1. Advertising and marketing
    2. Change the cover
    3. Change the blurb

I’ve experimented with advertising & marketing. Mediocre results likely due to it requiring a different skillset and more dedication than I have capacity for right now. I need to get more books written first.

I’m not spending the cash to change the cover of KD b/c I don’t know if that’s the issue. I’m not even reasonably certain that’s the issue. I’ve also changed the blurb a bit. But again, I don’t know where the problem is.

So, I’m going with a different cover approach on DGtS. People. Lighter. Maybe that will draw folks in. We shall see. In like a year, lol.

The main problem is awareness. And while it’d be great to invest the time and money into building awareness, I only have one book to monetize. The good folks over at the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Marketing podcast have consistently recommended:

  1. Launching an entire series at once so you have more books. Awesome if you can do it. I can’t.
  2. Marketing when you have more books b/c you can do things like “first book free” in order to generate sales of other books in the series…which I don’t have.

I tend to think they’re right.

And, this is the series I want to write. I have zero ideas for stuff outside of this Norse-inspired universe that’s rattling around in my head. Those future stories are pretty cool (imo, lol), but I’m not ready for ’em yet. Gotta get thru this 2nd book. Maybe then I jump ahead and write ’em…or maybe I stick to the plan and write book three in this series.

Dunno yet.

For now, I gotta work thru this writer’s block.

Struggling.

Not much else to say. I sit down to write and my mind slides off the project like a dull knife off ice.

As an example, last week I wrote in my notebook a summary of each scene in the arcs for Loki, Frigg and Odin. I was trying to reinvigorate my interest by refreshing my memory — and, in the process, maybe spot some problems I could fix. It was helpful.

But now, because we’re selling our house and had to declutter, I shoved that notebook somewhere and can’t find it. Sigh.

So, as I sit down this morning to write, I’m annoyed and uninterested in working on Dark Grows the Sun — so many places that need work that I don’t know where to start.

So, I opened ancient drafts that I last looked at in September 2015. That felt like less of a total time-waster. (Self delusion is fun.)

When I originally started writing, all of what I’m working on now was a great big mish-mash. Over time, I broke that mess into three “volumes”:

  1. Aesir, which further divides into my current projects:
    1. Kinsmen Die
    2. Dark Grows the Sun
    3. I Don’t Know Yet
  2. Svartalvar
  3. Humanity

My original idea was to have Aesir #3 blend into the first Svartalvar book. Those of you who’ve read Kinsmen Die know that the Svartalvar have been mentioned numerous times but only seen once. The same goes for Dark Grows the Sun…except for one scene in which Odin sits upon the High Seat and looks down upon those “dark alvar.” As its written right now, Odin is the link between the two volumes.

Volume 2 dives right into the Svartalvar world via three characters: Sindri, Brokk and Eitri. Those familiar with Norse myth will recognize those names. They are the three “dwarves” who forged the weapons and items used by the Aesir — Gungnir, Mjolnir, etc.

Of course my three dudes are not those three dudes. Those names became titles/office which my three hold. As currently written. That may change if I decide that’s too stupid.

The goal of Volume 2 was to pick up at a point in Svartalvar history at which Sindri had discovered something amazing and then, through a series of accidents, come into contact with the Jotunn — specifically, Vafthrudnir. All of this is both the “prequel” to Kinsmen Die as well as running concurrently with the events in the Aesir volume. Book Two of Svartalvar is probably where they’ll link.

My goal with the third volume, Humanity, was to drag people into the Svartalvar world via Sindri and his experiments. That basic idea still works despite some changes I’ve made to how the universe is built.

The Humanity volume centers around a boy (Rowan) and a young female fox (Brinn). It’s in this volume that humans (via Rowan) come into direct contact with the Aesir. And its where Vidar starts to become a whole lot more like Odin. (Vidar was my gateway back into Norse myths and the dude around which everything initially revolved.) Oh, and those of you who know Norse myth know how important the rowan tree is 🙂

Looking back at it now, “Humanity” is very young adult (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and very quest oriented…which I had major problems with because I poorly used the “MacGuffin” technique.

Overall, there’s some really cool material in those later volumes which I’m eager to get to. It’s also nice to see that my writing has gotten better.

But as I sit here languishing in the mire that Dark Grows the Sun has become, I wonder when I’ll ever get to that material. And it’s depressing. I need Westley to dive into the lightning sand and haul my ass out. But, sadly, I am my own Buttercup and my own Westley.

Delayed!

I’ve pushed the publication of my second book back by about a year. Few reasons for that:

  • Lot of stuff happening with my family; that’s more important
  • Feeling rushed. There’s working under pressure and producing a good product for your editor to read and then there’s just slapping words on the page, knowing they suck. The latter just wastes her time and my money.
  • Troubles with theme and timelines.

Timelines will be the death of me. I’m continually struggling over making sure everyone is where they should be WHEN they should be and that it took a reasonable amount of time for them to get there. I’ll think I have it fixed only to start writing another scene and I’ll realize things are out of whack. And once you move one event, the changes ripple.

Theme. Ah, theme. I have three intertwined plots in my 2nd book: Loki, Frigg and Odin. They’re all twined around the…spoiler!

…spoiler!

…srsly…this next bit is a spoiler…

 

 

…the death of Baldr. Which is probably not a huge shock to those who know Norse myths. Odin’s plot is the most important one. Here’s what my editor said about it when she read my outline & summary…

Odin’s transformation has the potential to be monumental. His storyline is so much more internal than the others that it almost feels quiet in comparison, yet it sets the tone for everything.

What I have right now is nowhere near that. And I need it to deliver.

I need it.

So that’s why I’ve delayed the book.

More on ancient peoples…

This time from tools found in India. According to the article, the big question is: How did the techniques get there?

Full story here.

And an excerpt….

researchers described thousands of stone implements uncovered at Attirampakkam, an archaeological site in southern India. The tools span about a million years of history, they say, and illustrate the evolution of big, blunt hand axes into finely sculpted stone points. Starting about 385,000 years ago — long before modern humans are thought to have arrived in India — it appears that an advanced toolmaking culture was developing there.

Full article is well worth a read.

 

“Stirrer of Inspiration”

I love this kinda stuff — such amazing fodder for the imagination:

The fossil is said to be the oldest-known evidence of modern humans living outside of Africa, and it could push back the evolution of Homo sapiens by 100,000 to 200,000 years, suggesting they originated in Africa some 300,000 to 500,000 years ago.

The full article was published in the NYTimes, but here’s where I found it.

World building is integral to pretty much any novel, it’s just the degree of it that varies.

I’ve been toying with several “origin story” type ideas for my Norse-influenced fantasy world. One thing I’ve hinted at both in the first book and in the (forthcoming) second is that the world is much bigger than the Aesir, Jotunn and Vanir are aware. It’s also inhabited by people unrelated to them.

In my world, one of Ymir’s sons was Muspell. After Odin, Vili and Ve slew Ymir, Muspell gathered up those loyal to him and sailed southward before anyone could stop him — like a bloody minded Odin.

In Kinsmen Die and now, in Book Two, the Sons of Muspell have arisen and seem to be inciting a rebellion against the rule of Odin and Frigg.

So, Odin wonders if there’s a link between these new sons and the ones he remembers. When he sits upon the High Seat (Hlidskjalf) and looks out across the realms, searching for where Muspell might have gone, he finds some things that surprise him.

And what does all of this have to do with homo sapiens perhaps having evolved 100,000 to 200,000 years earlier than thought?

Well, that’s a whole lot of time to play in. Throw in the Denisovans and Neanderthals and, dang, that’s a potent brew.

 

Óðrœrir — “Stirrer of Inspiration“ — more plainly, the mead of poetry in Old Norse myth. For more, click here.

 

Available now in multiple stores

Over the holidays I decided to take my book “wide” — ie, distribute through multiple storefronts.

So, in Kobo, my book is available here.

And in Apple iBooks, it is here.

And, of course, in Amazon, it is available here.

In other news, I start working with my cover designer in a couple weeks for Book Two which is tentatively titled, “The Death of Baldr.”

Book 2 in the works…

Been a long time since I posted — lotsa reasons for that. The main one being that writing progress on BK2 has been rough.

I’ve realized that while I can outline the big picture / main storylines, I pretty much “pants” the nitty gritty.

Here’s what I mean. Spoiler-y stuff from here on.

I have the “roadmap” for Odin’s story in Book Two (BK2), but he needs more than those anchor scenes. All my characters do. The burning question for Odin in particular has been: WTF is he doing?

I planned some of those scenes, but the new stuff (like all the scenes) need to:

  1. Advance the overall plot
  2. Advance his own arc
  3. Reveal/show new aspects of Odin’s character and/or relationships
  4. Go deeper on known aspects of Odin’s character and/or relationships
  5. Twist, twist, twist so the scene doesn’t end up exactly how the reader expects when starting the scene/chapter.

Here’s a more specific example. And here come those spoilers of Book One (BK1) and Book Two. Not huge spoilers, though.

Toward the end of BK2, Odin finally goes to speak with Hodr. I want them to have a confrontation over what Hodr did in BK1, but tempered by what Frigg has just discovered & related to Odin.

The scene is in Odin’s POV. He confronts Hodr (who is expecting to either be killed right there or be given the date of his public execution), but that’s not what Odin’s planning.

And here’s the “pants-ing” elements I referred to earlier. While I’m writing the scene, I remember that Hodr showed up in Gladsheim with one of the youth-bestowing, golden fruits of Yggdrasil. He had it on him at the end of BK1, so he should still have it on him in BK2.

So, I write the golden fruit into the scene, placed prominently (w/o realizing the implications of that when I wrote the words).

My “plotted” goals for the scene were:

  1. Test what Frigg just told him
  2. Pump Hodr for additional info

I next remember that Odin hasn’t inspected the spear Hodr used to kill Baldr. So, I write that in. Then I figure that Odin would want to test what the spear’s magic does. So I write that in — Odin makes Hodr take it (test and guilt trip at the same time).

Here’s the twist that I also pants’d: The spear’s magic lets Hodr see something really freaky about Odin & his missing eye. Hodr throws up it’s so freaky.

Odin’s like “ew, gross” and is also shocked — “what did Hodr see?” — so Odin’s original goal is out the window. Now he has to find out what Hodr saw.

Odin next calls for a thrall to come and clean up the mess. Like you do. She enters, cleans up and Odin realizes that oh, crap, she’s seen the golden fruit — which I placed prominently.

Well, Odin never lets anyone see those fruits (except for the tight circle of jarls). Those fruits are a major part of the jarls’ grip on power.

So, here’s the next completely pants-d twist: Odin decides to murder the thrall. (But I imply it rather than state it outright, at least in the first draft.)

How he incapacitates her foreshadows what Odin does at the end of BK2. That he murders anyone at all is a character trait reveal and foreshadowing. It’s also meant to indirectly make Loki more sympathetic and contradict Marvel’s portrayal of Odin as a kindly old man.

What frustrates me about all of the above is how much I’m still learning about my own process. I couldn’t have outlined my way into the specific events of that scene. But maybe all (or most) of what I described above is totally normal for others authors. I dunno. I’d imagine at least some of it is.

Part of the reason I’m behind on writing BK2 is b/c I spent about 6 weeks outlining, outlining and outlining. Yet  here I am months later, completely pants-ing stuff. I mean, maybe I saved some time by outlining some/most of the big picture, but it doesn’t feel like it right now.

 

Thor…Ragnarok?

So I saw Thor: Ragnarok. Really enjoyed it.

If you hate spoilers, then stop reading here.

 

Last Warning! 🙂

 

 

 

 

OK, Let’s start with a simple critique of how the movie/comics differed from the myths:

  1. Thor does not have blond hair, is not the “prince” of Asgard, does not lose an eye, does not fly by flinging his hammer, does not become “king” of the Asgardian people. He also doesn’t have a particularly great relationship with his pappy.
  2. Loki is not Thor’s adopted brother; Loki is Odin’s blood brother. Loki is part of the assault on Asgard when Ragnarok begins (he and Hela, among others, sail in the Naglfar to destroy the “gods.” In a way, Loki does “start” Ragnarok in the movie.
  3. Hela is not her name (it’s Hel, but I’ve covered that elsewhere). Half of her face (and body) should be blue-black, but it isn’t. She also doesn’t have evil witch make-up or a horned helm. And she especially isn’t Odin’s daughter; she is Loki’s daughter. She also doesn’t fight against Surtr. She (and Loki) and a whole bunch of dead folks fight alongside Surtr (sorta). But, Odin did exile her.
  4. Odin is not a kindly old man that floats away in golden sparks (see the link below for why those sparks looked like they did). He is not a kindly king. He is more like the Odin that Hela uncovered when she broke the fresco. Sorta.
  5. Fenrir is not Hela’s mount; he is her brother. He also doesn’t get his ass kicked by the Hulk. Fenrir eats Odin and is then killed by Vidar.
  6. Heimdall cannot psychically pull anybody to where he is. That’s the kind of super power reserved for plot conveniences. Idris Elba is totally awesome.

But, really, none of the above inconsistencies actually matters. It was a good movie and the Marvel universe does not equal Norse myth…so I won’t go into how “misleadingly” the film’s titled 😉 (Spoiler: everyone who survives should be dead.)

Did any of you catch some of the “Easter eggs”? I caught a few:

  1. Beta Ray Bill was on the Grandmaster’s tower.
  2. Thor said Loki once turned him into a frog. That’s a reference to the Simonson era of comic books…and pretty much when I stopped reading the Thor comic because that issue was really, really stupid.
  3. Check out #15 in the link below. I didn’t catch that one — the shirt Banner is wearing is “Hungry like the Wolf” (Duran Duran)…and then Fenrir bites the Hulk. Which is how Odin dies.

And here’s the link I mentioned: 15 easter eggs in the movie.

Now for a quick word on Skurge (Karl Urban’s character). The movie did a good job capturing his look & feel, particularly with the M-16s. I was a little disappointed with how the character was portrayed, but the film departed so heavily from what Simonson did with Hela and Skurge, I’m just glad they included Skurge at all. And, Karl Urban’s cool.

Maybe it’ll inspire folks to pick up some cool old comics. Try clicking here (Simonson link)!

And finally, I couldn’t help but think that the spaceship Thor & Co. fly away on looked a lot like Scuttlebut (the image above). It doesn’t now that I’ve looked at the image again, but at the time…dang! =D

Did you see the movie? If so let me know what you think!