Random Thoughts on Ant-Man and the Wasp

Now that was a fun movie! I took my kids to see it and we were all laughing. Great action sequences, good acting, fast-paced, clever touches. The animations for the shrinking and growing was impressive. As was how smartly and cleverly Ant-Man and the Wasp use their tech.

NO spoilers ahead.

If at first you don’t succeed…

First off, even though my writer’s block is hanging around smokin cigs and flicking them at me, the writerly part of my brain really appreciated the movie’s use of:

  • try-fail cycles
  • the “yes, but; no, and” technique.

If you don’t know what those are, here’s a good summary. I don’t use either of those techniques half as well as I should. The movie gave me some really concrete examples of how to do it.

As an aside, Ant-Man and the Wasp sounds like an Agatha Christie book…or that Doctor Who episode with Agatha Christie.

Quite the Sting

I enjoyed Evangeline Lily’s performance (I’m not a huge fan, typically). Kudos to her acting and the script. No “damsels in a dress” going on there.

As my daughter put it: “You don’t mess with the girl!”

A Ghost of a Villain

Really interesting how the Ghost played out, at least to my writerly brain. Any guesses as to why?

Also, the decision made by a buddy of the Ghost threw me out of the movie for a bit. But, hey, it was kinda minor.

And as with all Marvel movies, make sure to stick around for at least the first credit scene. The second one…meh.

 

The image is a red panda yawning. I did say my thoughts would be random.

 

Breakthrough?

Bit of a breakthrough this morning. As I think I mentioned in an earlier post, Odin has power over the dead. Hel also has power over the dead. Lots of spoilers for my second book in the stuff that follows. Just saying.

 

Arrr, ye been warned.

 

Who has the powah!

What I’d been having trouble figuring out from a story point of view is why Odin would let Hel gain power over something he controlled. My solution there was to mess with the timing. Odin gained the power first, dropped the ball on paying attention to everything, and that enabled Hel to gain a similar power. But the two of them have different powers over the dead which fits into my narrative.

Another problem I had was regarding a journey Odin (and Frigg) take into the spirit-realm to rescue the spirit of their son Baldr. This is part of the opening scenes of Dark Grows the Sun.

The myths are pretty clear — Hel has Baldr’s spirit and she ain’t giving it back.

Well, why? How did it get to that point?

In my book, Odin (and Frigg) go into the spirit world to get Baldr’s spirit back. They end up having bargain with Hel–which Odin hadn’t expected. He thought it’d be easy peasy.

One problem with this encounter was idiot-plotting. If I put those three at the table, then what would prevent them from hashing out a deal right then and there? (And if they did that, then there’s no story to tell.)

They all have something they want from each other, but Hermod still has to go to Hel and screw up — meaning that Hel keeps Baldr’s spirit — thus thwarting Odin’s (and Frigg’s) goal of bringing him back to life.

For a long time I could not figure out to make that happen without essentially forcing Odin and Hel into fake disagreement that resulted in what I wanted to happen (i.e., idiot plotting).

The opposite of that is creating a situation in which they naturally and believably can’t come to an agreement. Or they come to an agreement neither really likes but can live with (my long-winded way of saying “compromise”). Each of them are interacting in what they perceive to be their own best interests. So they have to do and say things that fit. Otherwise, the scene won’t ring true.

 

The breakthrough! (maybe)

So, I think I just figured it out. At least in the first draft. I deleted about 1500 words doing that, but hey, if they’re shit words then good riddance, right?

I’ll see how well this scene actually works tomorrow morning, but I think it’s 75% there.

Well, I hope it is.

And in fixing this stuff at the beginning, then future scenes should be more stable — even if I have to scrap and rewrite them — because then the foundation will be more stable.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.