Radio silence

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been knuckling down to get through my revisions.

My first step, as was suggested in 2k to 10k (and detailed in my previous post), I made a scene map. Since I already had done a time line, and kept that organization in my manuscript, it was easy enough to identify some problems.

The major issues are still with Frigg. The latter chapters just didn’t include her enough. It’s been tough figuring out what to do with her b/c she’s the “left behind” character — she’s stuck dealing with the everyday while everyone else is out doing things. For example, Vidar’s fighting in Utgard, Hyrrokin’s on the opposite side watching him. Odin’s off summoning the dead. Vafthrudnir is plotting; Loki is doing what he does best.

So, after some struggles¬†I stumbled into a solution that ties an earlier event (Frigg arbitrating a divorce) directly to an event that interrupts her everyday, boring preparation for the Midwinter festival — which is where the major plotline, and hers, ends. I think it works well, but then I would ūüôā

 

In the process of all that, I added 8K words — bringing my grand total to a whopping 183K. A standard fiction novel is ~80K; a standard fantasy is ~120K. I’m not thrilled about the word count, honestly, b/c I’m worried it’s bloated.

So this morning, rather than write a Frigg scene that I’ve outlined, I ripped apart four Vidar scenes and tweaked two Odin scenes that occur in the first 25% of the book. I streamlined them — removing excess exposition, navel gazing, redundancies and purply prose. In the process, I also fixed a couple timeline issues. Those scenes are better now and, bonus xp,¬†after I was done, the manuscript was a cool¬†1500 words shorter — dropping me down to the 183K mentioned above.

So, all that’s the reason for radio silence — not enough brain cells to spare =D

Something’s gotta change…

Last week, my editor confirmed that she could review my manuscript 2 months earlier than we’d originally agreed (Sept 1 vs Nov 1). This was awesome news, especially since I had scheduled my line edit for Jan 2017.¬†I’ll now have¬†3 months to revise based on whatever holes she rips in it.

But, there are downsides:

  • I have to actually finish this first book. I keep adding new scenes and/or rewriting existing ones. I’m not doing it willy-nilly, but I still need to finish.
  • If I don’t finish “soon,” then I won’t have time to fully polish the draft before sending it. That’s not catastrophic, but fixing obvious issues means I get more value from her review. (I’m talking about basic continuity stuff, plot holes, character arcs, etc.)
  • Put another way, the more polished the draft, then whatever holes she rips in it will probably be the ones I can’t see and/or don’t know how to fix. That’s a huge learning opportunity.

And it’s not just revisions that I’m thinking about. Once this first book goes live, then my goal is one book per year thereafter. That’ll¬†be tough since¬†I’m a part-time writer.

So when I say something’s gotta change, I mean my per-hour word count. I have to speed up. Sure, I could add a few extra hours per week but that time will¬†increasingly come at the expense of other ¬†important things (family, job, exercise, relax time, etc.).

Currently, on a pure writing day I average 750¬†words per hour*. That’s just OK.¬†Since I typically write 4 days per week for about 3 hours each session, my per-week word count is also just OK¬†— 9K.

The problem is revision. Writing IS revision, but if I throw out 50% (or more) of what I write, well, I might as well be producing ~375 words per hour.

I’m cutting myself some¬†slack because¬†I’m a fiction-writing n00b. I’m learning as I go. But since I plan to go further & eventually go full-time, I gotta change things up.

So, this past weekend I picked up a book that’s been on my “look into when you get the time” list — Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K: Writing Faster. That book came from this blog post she wrote a while back.

I’m almost done with my first read-through and, I gotta say, it’s been well worth the¬†99 cents. Here’s the crux of her advice: know what you want to write (before you start writing), be enthusiastic about it (the scenes, plot, characters), and track your time & productivity. The book goes into more detail and provides some practical advice.

Prior to reading her book I’d noticed that:

  • the scenes I’m psyched to write do come out faster (enthusiasm)
  • I write better in the early mornings
  • the scenes I plan in advance go smoother…and, as I’m writing, I’m able to introduce changes that make them cooler — b/c ye olde subconscious has been churning away.

So, for me, her advice/methodology resonates pretty well. And that leads me to my spiffy new plan for finishing Book 1**:

  1. Set a deadline for being done. Really done. Like, totally done. I mean it.***
  2. Identify the crappy scenes & why they suck
  3. Replace the crap with cool by outlining BEFORE I rewrite
  4. Rewrite ’em.
  5. Do the dance of joy. Optional.

Adopting this new process should also make my writing (and rewriting) of Book 2 go more quickly.¬†Will I ever hit 10K words per day? I don’t know, but I’m happy to start with baby steps.

 

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* I don’t count revisions in word counts, but I’m thinking I should start.

** Offered in the hopes that writing it will help me commit to it ūüôā

*** Anybody want a peanut? 50 DKP Minus if you don’t catch the reference!

Somebody’s watching me…

The guardian of the gods, Heimdall was born of nine sisters.

Can you¬†imagine the guilt trips from his mothers? Ugh.¬†Or his Dad saying, “ask your mother” and young Heimdall thinking “sh!t, which one?”

Exactly who his mothers were¬†is unclear — they¬†could have been¬†Aegir‚Äôs nine daughters, but that doesn‚Äôt agree with other accounts that say the¬†nine were Jotunn women. I prefer the Aegir’s daughter’s explanation; it’s simpler.

In the Voluspa and Rigsthula, Heimdall is called Rigr and was said to be the father of all mankind. Which is inconsistent with other accounts that have Odin, Lodur and Hoenir performing a similar function.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Heimdall guarded the Bifrost and that his senses (sight and hearing) are exceptional and that his abilities had a big impact on how my Jotunn society developed. Here are some of his other attributes:

  • His home is¬†Himinbjor, which is near the bridge.
  • According to Simek, Heimdall may mean¬†‚Äúthe one who illuminates the world.‚ÄĚ
  • His teeth are made of gold, so he‚Äôs sometimes called Gullintanni (Goldtooth).
  • Snorri calls him the “white As” (“As” meaning god or Aesir; I can’t help but think of the donkey…b/c I’m 12.)
  • His horse is Gulltopr (Goldmane) and his sword is called Hofud (man‚Äôs head).
  • It is likely that¬†Heimdall was associated with the ram (the animal). The ram was a common sacrificial animal among the Germanic peoples.
  • Heimdall winds the Gjallarhorn, which can be heard throughout the world, to warn the gods that Ragnarok had¬†begun. He uses his horn at the end of¬†my first book ( but it’s not Ragnarok).

This myths also have¬†Heimdall and Loki battling each other and — spoiler! — killing each other during Ragnarok. I leave the original reasons for this antipathy obscure (it runs through at least one¬†other myth), but I do refer to a conflict in which Loki stole Freyja’s Brisingamen (a bejeweled gold necklace).¬†

In my book, Heimdall had a bit of a crush on Freyja, which she always thought was rather sweet. So, he used his amazing senses, found her necklace and its thief, beating the snot out of Loki in the process (they were both shapechanged into seals at the time).* Later, Loki had himself a double serving of cold revenge.

In my books, Heimdall is a non-POV character. He is present in multiple¬†scenes, but is not quite the “god” described in the myths. Not yet. The antipathy between him and Loki also plays out “on stage” during Book 2 (which is not Ragnarok).

I ignore his portrayal as¬†Rigr, the father of thralls, karls and jarls. But, I’m thinking there’ll be a fun opportunity in a future book to introduce that idea.

 

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And, yes, the title is a reference to Rockwell¬†— classic¬†80s music.

*Much of the Heimdall vs. Loki story is pulled from a reference in the Skaldskaparmal portion of the Prose Edda.

Cult of Springs

No, not mattresses — the watery type. Ancient peoples worshipped springs by making offerings in, to or¬†near them. The sea, lakes, rivers and bogs were also venerated — or at least places of sacrifice. For example, the bent/broken weapons of defeated enemies were often cast into bodies of water.

But, springs, lakes, etc., were also more than that.

According to the History of English podcast¬†(Ep 24),¬†our word “soul” comes from a much older word “siwelo.”

The words soul and sea derive from a common Germanic root word:¬†siwas, meaning lake or inland sea. Eventually, this became sea in modern English.¬†A later Germanic word (from southern & eastern Germany) was related:¬†siwelo, meaning something belonging to a lake or deriving from a lake. This became our word “soul.”

The northern Germanic tribes had access to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. They believed that the dead lived at the bottom of sea. But, the southern & eastern tribes were landlocked; they believed that the kingdom of the dead was in or beneath certain lakes.

And consider that¬†the original¬†Germanic concept of “hell”¬†was of an underwater kingdom of dead souls. Imagining this, I can’t help but think of the mist/fog that forms over a lake in the early mornings. Maybe ancient peoples saw this — most likely saw it — and wondered what it was ¬†— i.e., obviously the place that housed the souls of the dead and newborns.*

Also note the prevalence of ship burials — either lighting the thing on fire & setting it adrift, burying the ship or arranging stones in the general shape of a ship. A¬†ship was required to get to the land of the dead.**

In Norse mythology, the veneration of “springs”¬†reflected (at least in part) the significance of the primary mythical wellspring: Hvergelmir. If you recall, it is the¬†source for the √Čliv√°gar and, probably, Urdarbrunnr (Urd’s Well) and M√≠mir’s well.

The giant (Jotunn) of the sea is Aegir (literally: sea) is portrayed as a friend of the gods and he entertains them in his hall and, in the Hymiskvida, Thor fetches a cauldron/barrel for Aegir so that he can brew ale/beer.

In the Skaldskaparmal, Aegir’s wife is R√°n by whom he had nine daughters who were usually identified as the waves of the sea. Ran owns a net*** with which she fishes drowned people out of the water; the drowned then go to her underwater realm (not to Hel or Valhol). So, she embodied¬†its sinister side.

And, almost finally, the Voluspa mentions the Aesir having temples for worship. When I read that, I was confused. If the Aesir are gods, then who are they worshiping?

After a while, I had a light bulb moment. A little while after that, that idea grew into an entire religion practiced by the Aesir as well as some rituals I could use to inform that religion while lending some depth to my fictitious world (and giving a reason for certain characters to be where I needed them to be). And then, still later and spun a bit, that idea morphed into a religion for the Jotunn.****

Suffice it to say, then, that my Aesir venerate water and springs in a way that’s not so dissimilar from what I imagine¬†what¬†ancient Germanic peoples may have done.

As I researched my books, I also found myself more and more intrigued by what happened before — in Stone Age times and how those people, who likely spoke a language much closer to Proto-Indo-European than Old Norse, may have thought, imagined and behaved. Pushing back even further, I also began to wonder about possible, ancient Homo Sapiens interactions ¬†with Homo Neanderthalensis.

And all that came from just diving a bit deeper into the myths and beliefs surrounding springs and water. And, like the Cylons, I have a plan for it all. But with fewer spaceships.

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*¬†According to the History of English podcast,¬†some scholars think that the “stork bringing babies” idea goes all the way back to the belief in lakes as soul repositories.

**Also, ancient Germanic/Norse/Icelandic folk believed that the dead lived on in their barrows. This is an interesting tangent worthy of another blog post.

***In the Reginsmol, Loki stole R√°n’s¬†nets to fish up gold from the sea. Didn’t quite work out like he’d intended.

***My Alvar and Svartalvar kinda do their own things.

A Raven’s Eye View of the Vanir

Odin went with a great army against the Vanir. Each laid waste to the other‚Äôs land. When they tired of the war, they made peace and exchanged hostages. (This is from Snorri’s¬†Ynglinga Saga, 4.) I use elements of this version in my books, but avoid the euhemerism¬†in¬†Snorri’s account¬†(because it’s lame).

The seeress of the Voluspa recounts a different version of the war in which it began with a Vanir witch named Gollveig (possibly Freyja) who sought to bewitch the minds of the Aesir. The Aesir killed Gollveig with spears and then burned her three times, only for her to rise again.*

The seeress continues, saying:

On the host his spear | did Othin hurl,** 
Then in the world | did war first come;
The wall that girdled | the gods was broken,***
And the field by the warlike | Wanes was trodden.

In both versions (Snorri knew the Voluspa, btw), the Aesir and Vanir made peace and exchanged hostages. Njordr and Freyr were sent to the Aesir; Hoenir and Mimir were sent to the Vanir.****

Njordr, Freyr and Freyja are the only known Vanir gods. Simek says that there was a Vanir named¬†Ing who later become synonymous with Freyr. (I don’t include Ing in my books b/c I’d have to call him Ing the Erciless, and that’s not particularly¬†funny.)¬†I also don’t include Ullr as one of the Vanir.

Skadi, a Jotunn, married Njordr. Some accounts list Freyr and Freyja as the children of Skadi and Njord. Other accounts say that Freyr and Freyja are the children of Njordr and his (unnamed) sister. (Take that, GRRM! :))

My books assume that Njordr is married to Skadi*****, that Freyr is married to Gerd and that Freyja is married to Odr (who has been missing for a long time). All three of these marriages are extremely important for various reasons — both in myth and in my books.

In myth, the Vanir are gods of fertility though they also served other functions. For example, Freyja is also a magic, war death goddess (not unlike Odin). But, more on the individual Vanir gods in future posts.

My Vanir are as ancient as the Aesir, but originate in a different part of the world. They encounter the Aesir after they (the Aesir) fled their homeland and happened across fertile lands claimed by the Vanir.

Hostilities broke out. Each side inflicted great harm upon the other. After a time, they gave up on the war, made peace and exchanged hostages. Despite a rocky start, the Aesir and Vanir became close knit allies who helped each other against mutual threats (the Jotunn and the Svartalvar).

Essentially,¬†my¬†Svartalvar are to the Vanir (and Alvar) what the Jotunn are to the Aesir.¬†All five groups (counting the Svartalvar as the 5th) are inextricably linked in each other’s messes — and that has massive repercussions for what happens in future books. While both Freyr and Freyja appear in my first book, they don’t assume central roles until those future books.

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*Ouch. And, Simek suggests that this is too simplistic an interpretation; that may well be the case, but I’m not addressing it in this post.

**Hurling a spear over/into an opposing army was how the battle was dedicated to Odin (he’s the god of battle and many other things).

***I allude to this as the ‚Äúold wall‚ÄĚ in several scenes.

****Mimir was soon beheaded & sent back to the Aesir; Odin preserved the head with his magic and consulted it for advice.

*****At this stage, my backstory assumes that Freyr and Freyja are the children of Njord and his sister-wife.

The trouble with elves & dwarves…

I’m as¬†tired of pointy-eared, nimble elves leaping from rock to rock above a raging river or walking atop drifted snow, as I am of gruff, Scottish-sounding, hammer-toting, gold-loving dwarves, as nimble with dishes and song as they are with axes.

But, much of our modern conception of elves (alfar) and dwarves (svartalfar) began with Norse myth. Actually, a lot of it goes back to JRR, but he pulled directly from the Voluspa’s list of dwarves for the names of his — including “Gandalf” which means something like “Staff Elf.”

Anyway.

My goal was (and is) to be as faithful to Norse myth as possible. So, knowing the tropes and knowing the (over-used) interpretations of elves and dwarves, how could I spin it? As usual, I’m not going to say directly.

However, here are some of my notes from Simek’s Dictionary on how elves & dwarves were portrayed/viewed in the various source materials:

  • Snorri equates dwarves with a sub-group of the elves, the svartalfar.¬†Svart- means “black.”
    • There’s also the ljosalfar (light elves) which Guy Gavriel Kay uses in his Fionavar Tapestry.
    • And if you’ve ever played (A)D&D or read R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden series going the “dark elf” route is every bit as dangerous as Menzoberranzan.
  • Elves seemed to correspond to roles in religious cults while¬†¬†dwarves were just other types of beings (usually helpful) with whom humans and gods could interact; the dwarves were not originally thought of as small.
  • Dwarves were typically portrayed as wise and skillful (e.g., smiths), as well as miners and custodians of treasure¬†who¬†live under mountains and in rocks.
    • Their magical powers resulted from them having technical ability
    • The weapons and devices used by the Aesir — Mjolnir, Gungnir, Skidbladnir, etc., were all made by the dwarves (thanks to Loki).
  • Alvissmal recounts how the wise dwarf Alviss turned to stone when the first ray of sunlight touched him outside his home’s protection (he got duped by Thor)
  • In Voluspa, dwarves were created from blood of the giant Brimir and the bones of the giant Blainn. But, Snorri describes dwarves¬†as maggot-like beings living in the flesh of Ymir; they were subsequently imbued with reason by the gods.
  • The¬†etymology of the word “dwarf” is obscure.
    • Some scholars say it’s from the Norwegian “dvergskot” for animal disease and/or the¬†Old Indian for “drva-” meaning sickness or weakness which then¬†leads back to an Indo-Germanic root “dhuer-” or damage.
    • But, other scholars have¬†centered on the Old Indian “dhvaras” or “demonic being.” This leads to the Indo-Germanic root dhreugh — which then leads to dream (traum) or trug (deception) in German. In this case, “deceptive picture” would be closer to the original meaning of the original word.

My challenge was to incorporate much¬†of the above while also putting an original spin on it. I think I’ve done that, particularly with what my Svartalvar can do & how they do it (and yes, I changed the “f” to a “v.” Crazy, right?).

Like Snorri, I treat the Svartalvar as a subgroup of the Alvar. Long story short, two groups within the Alvar went through a disagreement which resulted in one group (the Alvar) allying themselves the Vanir. The other group, the Svartalvar, did not.

I frequently allude to the Svartalvar in my first book, but they don’t appear till my second. In my third book (and beyond), they take center stage with several POV characters. Large portions of those future books have been written, but I keep having ideas on how I can further differentiate my Svartalvar and¬†Alvar cultures. Which is fun.

I’m actually chompin’ on the bit to get to those future books, but it’ll be a while — years, most likely — before I do.

11 Rivers…

Eleven¬†rivers — the √Čliv√°gar¬†— spring from Hvergelmir and flow through all the Nine Realms. They are the:

  • Svol: the “cool one”
  • Gunnthra: “battle groove”
  • Fjorm: “the one in a hurry”
  • Fimbulthul: “might speaker”
  • Sl√≠dr: “dangerously sharp”; according to Snorri, this river flows thru Helheim
  • Hr√≠d: “stormy weather, tempest”
  • Sylgr: “devourer”
  • Ylgr: “she wolf”
  • Vid: “the broad one”
  • Leiptr: “lightening”
  • Gjoll: “loud noise”; Snorri also puts this river in the underworld; the Gjallerbr√ļ¬†bridges¬†it. That bridge is guarded by M√≥dgudr (furious battle). According to Simek, she may be one of Snorri’s additions to the myths.

These rivers have been integral to my story since the very beginning. And just a couple days ago, I thought of a whole new twist on them that should¬†solve a few worldbuildy issues. Note that Simek says a more accurate view/definition of √Čliv√°gar is that it is the name for the “proto-sea”that surrounds the world. They’re not necessarily incompatible definitions.

Here are a few examples of how I’ve used some of the rivers:

  • Vidar rests for a time beside the Svol; this happens in Book Two
  • In Book One, Odin harvests magic from the Sl√≠dr
  • In Book Two, Hermod speaks with M√≥dgudr before crossing the Gjoll — that was a neat scene to write, particularly since I have the Ships of the Dead dock at the mouth of the Gjoll. A group of the dead cross into Helheim at the same time Hermod does. I’m using that as a way to make Hermod’s journey cool, reinforce some worldbuildy stuff and show the difference between her and her father (Odin).

In Book Three, the rivers take on a more central role. But by then, a great deal of time in the narrative will have passed and my POV characters are mostly new.

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*I mostly use Simek’s definitions/translations of the rivers