Thor…Ragnarok?

So I saw Thor: Ragnarok. Really enjoyed it.

If you hate spoilers, then stop reading here.

 

Last Warning! ūüôā

 

 

 

 

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 ūüėČ (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!

Book promotion starts Nov 4!

Coinciding with the release of Thor: Ragnarok, I’m launching a book promotion (on Amazon only) that starts on Friday,¬†Nov 4.

Basically, Kinsmen Die¬†(ebook only) will be discounted to $0.99 and then over the next five days the price will climb back up to the full $4.99. The price of the paperback doesn’t change.

If you haven’t yet, pick it up and let me know what you think!

I’m really hoping that I’ll have time to see Thor: Ragnarok this weekend, but it’s not looking promising. Definitely interested to see what they do with the myths and the comics. And I saw some stuff pulled from Walter Simonson’s period working on Thor (Karl Urban as Skurge!). Note: I’ve been avoiding spoiling the movie too much for myself.

Oh, and, Cate Blanchett looks fantastic as Hela.

In my second book (in progress…and update on that soon), Hel is a major non-POV character. She’s a lot of fun to write. Lots of interactions with Loki and she stands up to Odin. Which kinda pisses him off.

Kinsmen Die starts at the inflection point in Norse myth — the point at which the Aesir realize they can die. From there my series builds toward Ragnarok, though that event is many books in the future.

Writing backwards

Book Two’s plotted. The synopses of each POV are written, organized, re-organized and placed where they need to be.

Thanks to my editor, I’ve adopted a typical structure for BK2:¬†opening, inciting event, act one: problem, act two: choice,¬† act two: disaster, act three: plan, climax, wrap-up.¬†In BK1, I stumbled into that structure. I’m glad to be¬†doing it consciously now.

In Scrivener I’ve created the above structure as folders and then within those folders I created text files with the relevant portion of the POV plot synopsis. For example:

  • Opening / Frigg; Odin; Loki
  • Inciting Event / Frigg; Odin; Loki
  • etc.

Once I did all that, I realized — to my horror — that the first half of the book was horribly broken because the timing of plot events didn’t line up.

For example, Loki’s inciting event is the “act two: choice” for Odin & Frigg. And, the “midpoint: reversal” for all three POVs is the same — but then the “act two: disaster” is different for all three POVs.

So, I took a week and dived into reorganizing the first half of the book. The way it stands now is that the main plot points in the first half of the book are offset a bit. I hope it works.

I’ve been able to start writing which means that my subconscious is currently okay with the new structure. (For me, “writer’s block” means there’s something broken in the book and I can’t write until I find and fix the problem.)

Now that writing’s (re)commenced I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.¬†BK2 is tightly focused on Odin, Frigg and Loki — those are the only POVs, so I’m hoping to really improve their voices and the theme driving each individual plot.

I also think I found the above errors because I was working backward through the book. I would’ve found them going the other direction, but probably not for another month and ~30K words later.

And given that I’m about a month behind where I wanted to be, these next few months are crunch time. November might actually be my first NaNoWriMo.

Book Two…progressing slowly

I’m still iterating on outlines, character goals, motivations, conflicts, etc. So far its looking like BK2 (actual title tbd) will focus on Frigg, Odin and Loki. Loki may end up being the one who ties the book together.

The above actually represents a change of plans. Originally, both Vafthrudnir and Vidar were going to be in BK2 as POVs. Now they won’t be, largely because their POVs aren’t integral to the core story in BK2.

I’d also been planning to use Hermod as my POV for the journey into Helheim, but now she’s out. One reason is that her character arc hit a wall at the “midpoint reversal.” I didn’t have a plan for what to do with her afterward. And everything I’d come up with felt forced, weak and trite…and not terribly relevant to BK2’s core story.

Another key reason for eliminating three POVs is that I need/want BK2 to be shorter. I don’t have time to write another 175K book, not if I want to get BK2 out by next fall.

My word count goal for BK2 is 100K max. I should be able to write that by year-end particularly given all the planning/outlining that I’ll start with and the bunch of scenes I already have to work with. Even so, meeting my Jan 2 deadline’s gonna be tight. I’m also horribly out of practice with respect to sitting down and actually¬†writing.

I’ve also been thinking about spin-off / related novels. These would focus on characters and storylines that I’ve cut from the first couple books. They’d be about 50K words long at most and tell the story of one character — Hyrrokin, as one example.

She’s one of my favorite characters but, like Hermod, she just wasn’t integral to the books. But telling Hyrrokin’s story will shed a lot of light on why the Jotunn are doing what they’re doing. And, she’s cool.

I figure I can do the same with Vidar’s plot in BK2, Hermod’s and maybe Vaft’s. Maybe these end up being freebie short stories, too. I’m not sure yet. A lot of that depends on how much time I can dedicate to them…and how good their standalone stories end up being.

Regardless, my goal remains: BK2 by fall 2018; BK3 by fall 2019. I’ll have some breathing room by then.

 

 

And still proofing…

So my “early August” release is slipping to “mid August” release. Over the past couple (three?) weeks I’ve been proofing my book.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Uploaded the book to Createspace; generated & downloaded a PDF proof
  2. I’m reading the PDF on my ‘puter with the MS Word file open at the same time. If I find a mistake or something I really, really can’t live with, then I change it on the spot.
  3. Then I make a note of what I changed in a text file. On the next proof (yes, there will be one), I will specifically check the stuff that I changed.

That final proof will be in Vellum (the software I’m using to format the ebook & print version). There’s a “preview” feature in the software that lets you see what the book will look like on a Kindle, Nook, etc. I’ll proof it that way rather than in Word or PDF again.

Once everything is as clean and correct as I can possibly make it, then I’ll upload the final files, change the launch date on Amazon & let ‘er rip.

Middle of August, I swear.

 

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The photo above is another I took at Glacier Bay in Alaska. You can see one of the glaciers on the far left.

 

BK2 just got real(er)

Just signed the contract with my editor to deliver BK2 on Jan 2, 2018. And then I scheduled delivery of my revised BK2 manuscript for April 26.

For some reason I’m more nervous about committing to that second date than the first. Maybe it’s because I know how much effort went into the BK1 revisions.

My editor’s also offered me a new service — it’s an iterative process designed to identify and resolve manuscript issues (plot, theme, characters, etc.) prior to my delivery of the first manuscript. I’m thinking it’ll help especially since I’m trying to move from “pants-ing” to outlining.

In other news:

  • Just got back from a cool vacation — an Alaskan cruise. The image above is a photo I took of the main glacier in Glacier Bay. Pretty damn incredible. Mountains, glaciers, fjords, open water, temperate rain forest — all excellent fodder for my books.
  • I have a handful of pre-orders. I wasn’t expecting any, so it’s cool to see folks interested.
  • My Amazon ad campaign is hilarious — 2,200 impressions and 4 clicks. I’m pretty sure that’s terrible. But, I’m only running it to see what happens b/c I have no idea what I’m doing. I need some kinda baseline.
  • My cover artist is awesome. Way back in February he said he’d do my print cover once I got him the necessary copy. I dropped the ball b/c reasons. I emailed him before I left for vacation & he said yep, offer stands, so I should have my print cover this week or next. Then I upload that sucker to Createspace and figure that thing out.
  • I’ve been very slightly tweaking my BK1 manuscript over the past couple weeks. I’m not making major edits, just correcting a few things here and there and trying to read it for consistency & continuity.

Once I get through BK1 and have all the pieces in place and finalized, I’ll officially launch the book and put it out of mind.

Gotta focus on BK2 to meet those deadlines.

Pre-order is live!

So, yeah, it’s very weird to see my book up on Amazon.

The Sept 26 date is just to give me plenty of time to completely finalize the book. I’ll release it at the beginning of August.

I put the preorder up for a few reasons:

  • I’m on vacation for the next 10ish days so I figured why not. And where I’m going I won’t have much Internet access so I won’t be able to obsessively check it. Which is good b/c there’s unlikely to be many preorders.
  • Any preorders that do roll in can help the “also boughts” populate in advance of the actual launch.
  • Get me used to the idea of BK1 being done. There’s a certain comfort in saying “it’s almost ready” versus “you can buy it now” — and then waiting to be damned with faint praise. Or awful reviews =D

In launching now I’m also ignoring advice I’ve gleaned by listening to multiple author-focused podcasts:¬†Launch a full series all at once or one book right after the other, spaced out by about three weeks in between.

I’m ignoring that advice b/c¬†I don’t have a full series (yet!) and it’ll take another two years to write & publish the next two books — assuming all goes as planned. I also need feedback from the market. Do most readers like the book? What can I improve? What can I do more of? What might I want to do less of?

Regardless of how this book does or what’s said about it (if anything), my best course is to keep on writing. So, onward!

Making progress

This morning my proofreader sent back the corrected manuscript. It’s pretty clean so it won’t take that long to finalize (ideally). Early August is still looking good for the launch.

In the past month I’ve been outlining and re-outlining BK2. I want to avoid the cycle of “rip apart, re organize, re do” that I experienced in writing BK1. Most of that was just being a new author and trying to figure out how to write a book.

Regardless, I want to avoid that on BK2 so I planning the book down to the scene before I start writing. Granted I have about 30K words already written, but much of that is gonna get thrown out. This is what I want prevent moving forward.

This is probably too much detail, but here’s my current outlining process:

  • Open the manuscript for BK2 in Scrivener;¬†Get out my trusty notebook & pencil.
  • Outline in the notebook by POV and day.
    • I have my manuscript organized by Day — 17 through 28 in this case. Each day is further divided into morning, afternoon and evening. Each scene is placed in one of those folders.
    • Each scene is a POV. I color code each POV so I can tell at a glance how well I’m alternating between POVs.
  • Go through each POV character (Odin, Frigg, etc.) and figure out what their scene is about.
    • While I’m doing that I note who else is present (particularly if it’s another POV), what they’re doing and what they will be doing.
    • Most of this is written in my notebook, but I’ll often move stuff around in Scrivener, add notes, etc.
    • I’ve caught quite a few “uh that’s not possible” errors just by nailing down where various characters are and will be.
  • Outlining with pencil & paper also makes it really apparent when certain plot lines are weak. For example, Odin, Loki and Frigg all have 3+ handwritten pages each. Vidar and Vafthrudnir have one each. Oops. Hermod starts strong but then vanishes from the book after the middle build.
    • This lack of character/plot development was the main reason for having to repeatedly take BK1 apart & reassemble it — because I just wrote scenes and then organized them.
    • Outlining & brainstorming in advance should help solve that problem.
  • When I get what I think is a really good idea I’ll switch to the keyboard. Not only is it faster, but I want to capitalize on the inspiration. And writing a bit here & there helps.

My goal is to get the outline for BK2 finished by the end of August. That’ll give me four months to draft the book and then polish it before sending to my editor in early January 2018.

Launching in August

I just sent my¬†manuscript to my proofreader. I’ve no idea how extensive her changes will be, but I’m guessing it’ll take me at least a couple weeks to go through them.

Once I get my book back from the proofreader, I’m going to put the book up for pre-order on Amazon. The max pre-order duration is 90 days. Actually it’s more like 86 since you have to account for re-uploading the final manuscript.

Either way, ~90 days will give me plenty of time to revise, fiddle and dither. Once the pre-order’s been live for ~30 days, I’ll advance the launch and make the book available in early August.¬†¬†I’ll be launching into KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited.

The advantage to preordering is that the “also-boughts” begin to populate before the book’s actually available (Assuming people are browsing to it & pre-ordering.) Beyond that, the book and my forthcoming author page may also garner interest.

As a first-time author, my expectations are low. (But I’m hopeful!) My approach to the launch is basically “fire and forget” — no marketing and advertising beyond this blog and word of mouth. (I may run a bare bones ad budget of Amazon ads as an experiment.)

If I had more books (minimum 3), then advertising would make more financial / ROI sense since I could do things like create a box set, make¬†the first book perma-free, discount the 2nd, etc. If things go as planned, though, I won’t have three books until September 2019.

That third book should complete the first story arc. My fourth book will be in the same Norse-inspired universe but will introduce new characters while most of those POVs in books 1-3 will have cameos. This is all assuming that my traction on books 1-3 increases over time. I’ve no idea if that’ll happen. If it doesn’t, then I’ll re-evaluate. But, I’ll be writing books 4-6 as a standalone (if related) series; BK4 will be a new entry point.

In the immediate term, I’ve a few things to do in preparation for my August launch:

  • Revisit my blurbs & bio. I haven’t looked at those in months so I should be able to rip into ’em¬†a bit more easily
  • Figure out how to integrate a mailing list sign-up to this blog. I suspect it’s as easy as paying more money and clicking on stuff. I’ll probably use Mailchimp since it appears to be the most commonly used and its “Forever Free” plan will be more than sufficient for my needs. The most annoying part of the mailing list will be paying the USPS for a PO Box.
  • Figure out how CreateSpace formatting works. I want physical books to be available for marketing purposes.
  • Figure¬†out how ebook formatting works. I’ve compiled multiple ebooks using both Scrivener and Word as the basis, but I’m assuming that I’ve missed something goofy (weird glitches, errors, etc.).
  • Finalize my front matter
  • Create my back matter — the call to action (leave a review and/or subscribe to my mailing list).
  • Finalize the three chapters from BK2 that I’m including at the end of BK1. The sequence will go like this: BK1 ends > call to action > first three chapters of BK2 > 2nd call to action.

And then, of course, I need to keep moving forward on BK2 or I’ll never make my Jan 2018 deadline. Regardless, it’s good to have the end (of BK1) in sight.