Book 2 in the works…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My “plotted” goals for the scene were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thor…Ragnarok?

So I saw Thor: Ragnarok. Really enjoyed it.

If you hate spoilers, then stop reading here.

 

Last Warning! 🙂

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.