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.

“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.

 

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.

Shed a Tyr for Loki

When I think of the Norse god Tyr, I can’t help but also think of Benedict, the brother of Corwin of Amber.*

When Benedict first appears in The Guns of Avalon, Corwin describes him thusly:

I fear Benedict…He is the Master of Arms for Amber. Can you conceive of a millennium? A thousand years? Several of them? Can you understand a man who, for almost every day of a lifetime like that, has spent some time dwelling with weapons, tactics, strategy?

In the Prose Edda, Snorri describes Tyr as the “bravest and most valiant and he has great power over victory in battles. There is a saying that a man is ty-valiant who surpasses other men and does not hesitate.” (This is from the Gylfaginning.)

Snorri goes on to write that…

when the Aesir were luring Fenrir so as to get the fetter Gleipnir on him, he [Fenrir] did not trust them that they would let him go until they placed Tyr’s hand in the wolf’s mouth as a pledge. When the Aesir refused to let him (Fenrir) go then he bit off the hand at the places that is now called the wolf-joint (wrist) and he [Tyr] is one-handed….

Benedict also lacks a hand.

I’m not suggesting that Benedict is Tyr. I’m just pointing out the similarities and, perhaps, the underlying influence.**

In Lokasenna 38-40 (Poetic Edda) which Snorri likely drew from, Loki mocks Tyr thusly (in Dr Jackson Crawford’s translation):

Loki: You don’t know how to settle disputes between men. I’m thinking of your right hand which Fenrir, my son, bit off.”

Tyr: I lost that hand, you lost that son. We both suffered loss. Your son isn’t doing well, either; he remains forever in chains waiting for Ragnarok.

This same passage reads thusly in the Bellows translation:

Loki spake:
38. “Be silent, Tyr! | for between two men
Friendship thou ne’er couldst fashion;
Fain would I tell | how Fenrir once
Thy right hand rent from thee.”

Tyr spake:
39. “My hand do I lack, | but Hrothvitnir thou,
And the loss brings longing to both;
Ill fares the wolf | who shall ever await
In fetters the fall of the gods.”

(Hrothvitnir = the Mighty Wolf = Fenrir)

Loki sounds kinda pissed off to me — as he does in all of the Lokasenna. After stanza 39 he goes on to further insult Tyr.

Tyr’s response in both translations, however, sounds even-handed (hah!).

All of the above is backstory and motivation for my characters — moreso for Loki because he has a POV. Tyr does not.

In the myths, Fenrir was chained because he’d grown gigantic and threatened the gods and the world — and it was prophesied that he would kill Odin when Ragnarok came. So they chained Fenrir up.

But why not just kill him?

I had to invent an answer for that in my book. Something believable.

And how did Loki feel about his kids getting cast out from Asgard by his blood-brother? (Odin also kicked Jormungand and Hel to the wayside.)

All of that’s some pretty key motivation right there. How did Angboda feel? What did she do?

Why did Loki end up getting hitched to Sigyn (his second wife)?

And since the myths can be read as Loki sticking around AFTER all this bad stuff happened to his family, then why did he stick around? And, maybe most importantly, what did he do about it?

I handled all those questions by looking deep inside a wolf’s belly.

 

 

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Note that the above picture is from this Pinterest gallery (I don’t use Pinterest). But, props to the artist found via this search. In the Chronicles of Amber the main characters — the royals of Amber — use decks of Tarot cards to communicate and/or travel through “Shadow.”

* Wait, you haven’t read the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny? Hie thee to an online bookstore now & buy the Great Book of Amber. It’s classic fantasy.

**Overall, there’s quite a lot about Amber that is reminiscent of the Norse gods and their ongoing battle with the Jotunn. I haven’t thoroughly researched the connections, but Zelazny has reportedly said that Amber was influenced by Norse myth, Celtic myth and Arthurian legend — along with a host of other allusions to philosophy (Plato) and literature.

Etymology note (b/c it’s cool): In his dictionary, Simek writes that Tyr is the Old Scandinavian name for the Germanic god of the sky, war and council. “Tyr” simply means “god” and is cognate with Tiwaz (Proto-Germanic; also means god) and also with Dyaus (Indian), Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Latin).

 

 

No, no. You do this, instead.

I gave Vidar’s BK2 plotline to Frigg.

All of it.

It was, dare I say it, inspired. And it only took ~7 months.

One major problem I had in BK2 was how much travel I was forcing Vidar (and others) into. Most of it was necessary for events in BK3, but much of it was forced and boring and I couldn’t see how to fix it.

Giving Vidar’s plot to Frigg did it. (So far ;).)

Here are some relatively spoiler-free specifics.

BK1 ends with Vidar in a big fight with a Jotunn warband. He’s losing and has to withdraw.

BK2 opens with Vidar in full retreat. Unbeknownst to him, the Jotunn are not chasing him. Never felt quite right, honestly, but I’d left it b/c I wanted Vidar back in Gladsheim b/c I wanted Odin to ask Vidar to investigate a murder.

That’s the bit I gave to Frigg. Sorta.

The murder is directly relevant to Frigg (and Odin). Her entire plot in BK1 is about that murder. But in BK2 her arc had been bland and mostly limited to a few scenes at the end. I knew I had to fix it, but wasn’t sure how.

So, after some thinking, I just let her do what she’d naturally want to do — choose to investigate the murder. It’s totally relevant to who she is and it makes complete sense that she would make that choice. It felt great.

But then I needed something for Vidar to do. That was simple. Let the Jotunn warband do what it wanted to do: Chase him.

But, the hersir of that warband has to ask permission from the Jotunn chief of chiefs (the Skrymir) before he can just go after Vidar. For reasons, Vafthrudnir happens to be with the Skrymir when the hersir’s request comes in.

The Skrymir and Vaft hadn’t planned on that warband pursuing Vidar. So, after a bit of foreshadow-laden debate, Vaft convinces the Skrymir that letting the warband pursue Vidar is the best choice — but only if he himself (Vafthrudnir) also goes into the proverbial bear’s den (Gladsheim).

This choice is a huge risk for Vaft and for the Jotunn’s plans. But, it works better than the old version and it fits Vaft’s character. Vaft also chooses to take Hyrrokin with him for reasons which will hopefully make sense b/c of sub-plot groundwork I laid in BK1.

So now, Vidar’s plotline makes more sense and he naturally ends up back in Gladsheim by the end of BK2 which is where I needed him for BK3.

In fact, by the end of BK2 everybody’s where I need them to be for BK3. And they’re all there much more smoothly and naturally than the convoluted mess I’d concocted before. It’s pretty darn exciting.

 

Rule Number Three

I can’t bring people back from the dead. It’s not a pretty picture, I DON’T LIKE DOING IT!

– The Genie, Disney’s Aladdin, voiced by the incomparable Robin Williams

 

One of my big worldbuilding challenges was reconciling the multiple “realms of the dead” in Norse myth:

  • Odin, Valhol and the Einherjar: These are the humans who die in battle (often b/c Odin betrays them), are chosen by his valkyrie and are then taken to Valhol to “train” every day in preparation for Ragnarok.
  • Freyja: Half of those who fall in battle go to her, half to Odin. No explanation in the myths as to why. Her chosen dead reside in Folkvangr and comprise her own army. The Vanir fight with the Aesir in Ragnarok.
  • Thor: Accepts the dead “peasants” into his “realm of the dead” (the name of which escapes me, atm)
  • Beneath the Waves: Those who die at sea can sink into RĂĄn’s cold embrace. She’s a goddess of the sea and is married to Aegir, also a god of the sea. I’ve transformed these two (RĂĄn and Aegir) in my fictional mythology and made them fundamental deities.
    • As an aside, and according to the History of English podcast, the words soul and sea derive from a common Germanic root word “siwas” meaning lake or inland sea.
    • In later Germanic (southern & eastern Germanic) the word became “siwelo” meaning something belonging to lake; deriving from a lake. And that word eventually became our word “soul.”
    • I don’t know why, but this etymology makes me think of mist swirling above a lake.
  • Helheim (Home/Realm of Hel): Hel is Loki’s daughter by Angrboda. Odin kicks her out of Asgard along with her two brothers (Jormungandr and Fenrir). Snorri says that she rules over the place where the “dishonored” dead go. Snorri describes her as half flesh color; half blue (blor) but according to Dr. Jackson Crawford, it’s not clear that Snorri means she’s split down the middle half & half blue-/flesh-colored.
    • As another aside, Dr. Crawford and the History of English of podcast, both (separately) discuss the origin of the word “hel.” It comes from the Indo-European root “kel” meaning to hide or cover. Our words cellar, conceal, helmet, holster, hole, hollow all trace back to “kel.” But since I’m not a linguist (yet?) I’ll stop there.
    • “Hel,” then, started out as a covered place — graves, barrows, under mountains, etc. Over time, this concept became “Helheim” which Snorri describes in the Prose Edda.
    • Crawford says that the Old English Bible used “hell(e)” to translate “infernus” in Latin; while the the Gothic Bible used “halja” to translate Hades.

So with all these different types of “realms of the dead” I had to figure out how I’d use them. And, as always, my goal was to remain as faithful to the myths as possible.

My first step was to give myself some elbow room. My entire fictional world is an alternate version of our Earth and its history.

Next, I made my world “pre-human” meaning that my Aesir, Vanir, Jotunn, Alvar and Svartalvar have yet to encounter us — regular humans. This opened up some really cool (imo) possibilities.

We also meet my major characters (Odin, Hel, etc.) at different places in their mythological lives (ie, our myths). So, my Hel is not yet Queen of Helheim. But, my Odin has sacrificed “himself to himself” upon Yggdrasil. At the start of BK1 he’s maybe half of the Odin we know. He develops fully into “our” Odin by the end of BK3.

With respect to reconciling the realms of the dead, the major stopping point for me was that Odin and Hel are enemies. I had to figure out why and how Odin would cede power over the dead to her. I think I’ve figured out a pretty good rationale there which, for spoiler reasons, I won’t go into here.

In BK1 it was sufficient to hand-wave at the relationship between Odin and Hel because it doesn’t really matter and she doesn’t appear on stage. But in BK2 she does. And the antipathy between her and the Aesir (and Odin in particular) becomes a big deal.

Another aspect to the whole consistent realms of the dead dealio involved integrating that afterlife into the magic system. I needed reasons for why Hel and Odin could do things. And I needed a system for what happens when people die.

Some of the questions I had to answer include:

  • Do the inhabitants of my world believe in souls/spirits?
  • What happens to the spirits of dead people? What happens to the physical body?
    • The Norse believed in the hugr (spirit) and the hamr (body/flesh). This belief is integral to my magic system.
  • Are there differences in what happens to the spirits of the dead Aesir, Jotunn and Vanir? What about humans?
  • Why is Odin able to summon and interrogate the dead?
  • Why does Hel gather to her the spirits of those who have not died in battle? How is she able to do that?
  • Why does Odin send the valkyrie to gather (human) souls? How do the valkyrie do that?
  • Why do Odin and Freyja divide those human souls between them?
  • We know all this from the myths — or some of it, at least — but I needed solid narrative reasons. I also don’t have all the answers yet.

And speaking of bringing the dead back to life, I’m having some fun with the Einherjar. In BK1 they are all living men and women. So, that’s one thing I’m hoping is going to set off alarm bells for all readers who Norse myth — i.e., wtf, these Einherjar are supposed to be dead zomg!? And for those who don’t know who/what the Einherjar are, I’m hoping that what develops is a big, inevitable surprise.

But hang on tight, ’cause I don’t deliver on any of that till BK3.

An evil puzzle

Yesterday morning–a day ahead of schedule /cheer–I finished going thru all the line edits. The book’s still a mess, but the low-hanging fruit is all dealt with.

As I was going thru the book I made comments about time references. Not just to backstory events but also with respect to linearity within the book’s events. In a prior post I mentioned that my editor suggested combining scenes b/c some were too short and made the book feel choppy.

But, all of those scenes/chapters either happened simultaneously or flowed one after the other with respect to time. Until I started combining scenes. And, b/c I was more focused on fixing & writing new stuff prior to the line edit deadline, I didn’t go back thru and resolve all the timeline issues I created.

So, I gotta do that now.

The graphic above shows the new timeline I created. You can see from the “notes” column:

  1. Where the issues are
  2. Relative time references (must happen after, 2 days before/after, 6 nights until, etc.)
  3. Yes, I’ve hidden some rows & columns because spoilers.

Day 7, Ch. 31, Vaft, is a good example of what I meant when I combined scenes/chapters into one. The events in Ch 31 originally happened across several days…and they still do…but now it seems like they happen immediately after each other. And that implies a backward jump in time when the reader goes to Ch 32.

I know time jumps are common in novels and this probably won’t be an issue with the readers, but a) I’m not quite sure how to handle it and b) I don’t want anything to jolt the reader out of the story. More thought required.

Chapter 33 is an example of a different type of time issue. I’ll call this the “wtf is he doing for X days” problem. One of the major changes pre-line edit was to Vidar’s timeline. I made him more consistently active which (in part) meant moving some of his scenes earlier in the book and writing new ones for him.

But now there are logical gaps in what I need him to be doing. Why would he sit around for 2 days? How long does it take for him to get from A to B & how does that mesh with other scenes? I need the text to implicitly answer those questions should they occur to the reader.

Ch 66 is an example of how important travel times are . I’ve established that it takes Odin 3 nights to get from Gladsheim to Helheim; so 6 nights round trip. He leaves Gladsheim in Ch 66 promising to get back by Midwinter — ergo, 6 nights between Ch 66 and Ch 83. Everything thing else MUST fit into that timeframe and make sense…and everything did…until I broke it.

The timeline is never going to be seen by readers. But, if they choose to figure out how long the book’s events take then they should be able to puzzle it out from clues I leave. And that means making the timeline legit. I’m also completely anal about this stuff and cannot progress until I hammer out the inconsistencies.

I’m giving myself a week to fix the timeline. Once I’ve done that, it’s on to fixing the writing — particularly scene opening/closing hooks–since it makes no sense to do those until I’ve fixed the chapter order.

Line edit’s back…

The graphic above gives a sense of what it looks like. Every single page of the manuscript looks like that. It’s glorious.

The past few weeks I’ve been:

  1. Working on the marketing blurb & author bio … getting close
  2. Finding & finalizing names for stuff
  3. Worldbuilding my fictional culture’s afterlife.
  4. Outlining and re-outlining Book 2, along with some scene writing when the spirit moved me.

It’s been tough really throwing myself into BK2 knowing that I’d have to interrupt that effort by diving back into BK1’s revision.

With this revision I need to work on a few things (as noted by my editor)

  1. Scene opening & closing hooks: I start too many scenes by “describing the stage” — showing what’s there, who’s standing where, etc. She recommended starting with action–which I did in some scenes, but not in all. Nailing these help propel a reader thru the book.
  2. Without even realizing it I’d written more than 300 “half-” constructions (half-dozen, half-slid, half a company…half-assed ;)). I never would have caught those on my own. So, I’m eliminating half of them. 😉
  3. Eliminate “stage business”: These are phrases like turning and looking. Her advice to fix this was to “Use interiority to show what the viewpoint character is thinking or feeling at that moment, or get the characters interacting with the world you’ve built around them.”
  4. Reduce “over-writing” / “purple prose”: I didn’t do too much of this, but where she noted those instances I actually LOL’d when I read them again. I doubt I would’ve noticed  these without her. Note that some writers’ styles involve “flowery” prose. Nothing wrong with that–but it’s not my style, so when I slid into “purple-osity” it was especially jarring.

Fortunately, there was only ONE plot point that I didn’t resolve sufficiently. Wewt! That said, I do have a bunch of continuity issues to iron out (which I expected). I also have to replace all the placeholders — mostly names for people & things. Not a big deal, thanks to search & replace.

On Feb 28 I send my corrected manuscript to my proofreader. She advised me to take at least a month to work thru the line edits (I’d only planned on two weeks).

I am SO glad I followed her advice.

Spears, shields and spells

This week I’ve finished developing a Norse-sounding military hierarchy for my books. It’s  loosely based on very early (BC) armies — Roman, Greek, Etruscan, and what little we know about how the Norse / Vikings fought. I also made a lot up 🙂

My base military unit is a pair of warriors: a shieldbearer (front line) and a spear-wielder (second line). Two pairs of these warriors are the next biggest “formation.” There are 10 pairs of warriors in a shieldwall (if they’re making a square). The length of the line varies by terrain/tactics as does its depth. Every warrior also carries hand-to-hand weapons: mostly axes and long knives (seaxes), but there a few swords here and there (mostly used by Jarls).

Pure archers are a part of each Aesir (and Jotunn) warband, but about half of my “spears” are proficient enough with bows that they can switch if necessary. Each warband also has at least one healer who has been trained at Baldr’s academy (my invention).

The Aesir also have baresarkers (berserkers) but they are very few in number — these are elite, magically empowered warriors who report directly to the Alfather or Almother. Several baresarkers figure prominently in my first book.

I’ve organized my armies into warbands. Currently, each one is ~105 people strong. It is led by a Hersir and there is a short chain of command down to the warrior who’s in charge of each wall. I’ve tried to account for all the other duties that must exist — signals/comms, cooks, guards, latrine, smiths, etc. There are no independent/pure archer or cavalry warbands (among the Aesir and Jotunn).

To make things easier (for me and my readers), I’ve assumed that the basic military structure is the same for Jotunn and Aesir — despite a few key differences. The Vanir and Alvar fight differently, though, as do the Svartalvar.

The Aesir have three basic military groups:

  • Garrisons: Comprised of older men and women along with those young boys & girls who are learning about military life before they are compulsorily enrolled in the army. In my fictional culture, everybody learns how to fight. Most don’t end up doing that professionally, though.
  • Army: The largest fighting body of Aesir, led by Tyr and Ullr. It is comprised of multiple warbands. Their main job is border protection and internal security along the roads. These warbands are on their way to becoming more specialized (e.g.,. cavalry only, archers only, etc.).
  • Einherjar “Those who fight alone”: This is my elite fighting force — and are an important part of the story. To become Einherjar a warrior has to distinguish him/herself on the battlefield. Over time, and particularly since Odin went wandering in my book’s backstory, the Einherjar have grown large and begun to sprawl. (My Einherjar are not (yet) those you know from myth.)

All three of the above groups use horses (everyone knows how to ride) to get from one place to another, but they typically dismount to fight. They will also use ships to get from place to place, when possible.

Jotunn warbands are called “vegr.” That’s the Old Norse word for “road” or “way.” When speaking of death, the Old Norse would often say “he/she is on the road to Hel.” That phrase translates to Helvegr — which I thought  would be a cool name for a military group. So, all the Jotunn warbands are called XYZ-vegr. Helvegr is the best of them all and it is led by Beli.

The vegr are roughly the same size as Aesir warbands (about 105 warriors), with a few important differences. Namely:

  • The Jotunn use shaman who double as healers. The Aesir don’t have the same level of access to magic as the Jotunn do. For reasons.
  • Jotunn shaman also picked up a couple tricks from the Alvar and Svartalvar and the magic they use which allows the Jotunn to control wildlife.
  • And since the Jotunn don’t have access to horses, their shaman have figured out another way to move about Utgard’s vast desolation.

The people in my books refer to magic as “seidr.” In actuality, seidr is a sub-type of magic, but it’s the most common type. Seidr is what Odin learned from Freyja. But, Odin knows other types of magic: galdr, necromancy, runes & shapeshifting to name a few.

Each type of magic allows the practitioner to do certain things, assuming they have a power source. I show that power source being used in multiple different ways and I show the POV running out of that power source. Acquiring more is an involved process that I show Odin engaged in about mid-way through the book.

Note: Odin and others, including the Jotunn, use one type of power source, but Freyja (and the Svartalvar) have figured out other ways to power their magic. This becomes a thing in future books.

Certain practitioners only use certain types of magic — e.g., Freyja only uses seidr — but Odin uses them all (he is the Father of Enchanters, after all). Some don’t have any magic at all, like Frigg, but she uses items created from seidr. Thor is a hybrid (over which I’ll pull mystery’s shroud), but the visible source of his power are three Svartalvar-crafted implements: hammer, gloves and belt.

Overall, my magic system has rules and my characters use magic to do things important to the plot. In my initial books, the characters all take magic for granted so I don’t spend much narrative time explaining it — just enough to make sure the reader knows what’s happening and what the rules are.

There’s a lot more I could write about the magic system & how I developed it, but I think I’ll wait on that until I get some commentary back from beta readers of the line-edited book. Gamers are really good at figuring out what works and what’s broken.