Book progress…

I’ve just now sent my line editor about 2K words for a re-edit. On June 5th I will submit the “final” manuscript to my proofreader.

I’m assuming it’ll take her about a month to make her edits.

I’ve no idea how long it will take me to go through all of her changes. Probably anywhere from two weeks to a month.

Realistically, I’m guessing the book will launch in August.

All righty…back to writing BK2!

 

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.

 

BK2

Last week I tentatively reserved January 2018 for the first developmental edit of BK2. I’m using the same editor as I did for my line edit. I like her, I trust her and we have a good working relationship.

Currently, I’m planning two rounds of “content” editing — first one focuses on story, plot, character, etc. Then I get it back and spend ~6 weeks revising. Then I send back to her. She evaluates how well I executed on the suggestions, etc., in the first round.

Then, I spend another ~6 weeks revising. Once I’ve done that, I send it back for the line edit.

Tired yet? I am and I haven’t even done any of it yet.

After the line edit, which focuses more on language use, I again go through and make changes.

Then I go down to the pub and have a few drinks. Or maybe I do that before making the edits.

Once I’ve finished with the line edits, the book is ready for the proofreader. She’ll have it for a month. Then I revise…and THEN I publish.

Rough math, I should be ready to publish BK2 by September/October 2018. Crazy.

And probably somewhere around next year this time (call it May 2018) I’ll ask for the January 2019 editing slot…and begin writing BK3.

I’m not used to these long planning horizons — or writing books, lol — but just thinking about it is helping rekindle my excitement for the series (these months upon months of revision have been really draining).

That revitalization became clear to me this morning after I’d written a scene between Frigg and one of her sons.

It was one of those where you have an idea/sense of what needs to happen, but it’s not entirely in focus. And then you slip into that zone, time fades, and the words just flow. It’s not perfect by any means, but it delivers some solid emotion and achieves what I needed.

I have eight months to get BK2 into a state where it’s ready for an editor. That’s entirely doable particularly since I have the whole thing plotted and planned. And, much of it’s written. Of course much also needs to be rewritten and added, but that’ll happen.

Just gotta get crackin.

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 Rán’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 (Rán 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.

Finally, almost done.

After about six weeks of revision, I sent my book to my second editor this past Monday.

Finally.

Six weeks sounds impressive, but it was probably about 70 hours of work. Ish. I’m not really sure. Lot of other stuff going on.

And, of course, I grew so thoroughly sick of looking at the book that revising it became difficult. Multiple times I had to stop myself hating on it by saying: “she edited this already, she didn’t throw up on it, move along.”

There remains a great deal in the book that I’m not happy with. But, I’ve always felt like this about stuff I’ve written & rewritten (ad nauseum); I imagine most writers feel similarly.

I also decided that absent Fenrir-sized errors, it’s time to put this sucker out in the world. If peeps hate on it, well, so be it. Learning experience.

I also realized this past week that it’s been about 6 months since I’ve written anything genuinely new. Depressing.

So, it’s time to move on. There’s more story I want to tell.

 

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.

Quick Update.

I ain’t done.

This morning I reached Chapter Sixty-Three (of 93 total). About 10 days ago my proofreader offered to extend my deadline to April 3rd. After some dithering, I accepted her offer.

One main reason: More time is good. (But not too much.)

You think writing the book itself is work. You think the first revision is work. And the second. By the third, you’re reaching for the whiskey b/c every word you write is trash.

But the revision after an editor’s looked at it and shone a light on all the weak bits? /sigh

So what’s taking me SO long?

  • I’m literally going line by line re-reading and either accepting (90% of the time) or rejecting edits made.
  • Addressing comments made by my editor on various phrases, paragraphs, etc. I delete those comments once I’ve fixed them.
  • Postponing work on her comments depending on how much dedicated effort it feels like it’ll take. For example, I’m not touching any chapter/scene beginning or ending hooks until I’ve gone through the entire book. I leave those comments in (so I can find them again).
  • Making my own comments (I’m talking about Word’s “comment” function) on:
    1. Consistency & continuity: For example, Odin has two wolves (Freki & Geri). Initially both were the default male. Then, b/c wolf packs are matriarchal, one became female. About halfway thru that change, I switched which wolf I wanted to be female. Yes, I’m an idiot.
    2. Bad writing or writing I particularly dislike but can’t figure out how to quickly fix
    3. Obscure writing that even I don’t understand and/or remember what I meant.
    4. Time & timelines. Odin says he did something 2 nights ago. Is that correct? Different characters referencing the same backstory events–are their references consistent with each other? Do I want that event to be twenty winters ago? Does “twenty winters ago” fit with other events? This is a giant PITA.
  • Completely or partially rewriting some scenes and chapters.
    • Sometimes I’m cruising along accepting/rejecting and I hit a snag.
    • I tug on the snag and sh!t unravels. Then I spend three days rewriting.
    • Some of those changes are just b/c I didn’t like the writing. Some are b/c I didn’t like what was happening — action, setting, motivation
    • I think the scenes work better after the changes…but then I still need to go back over them again (so I leave track changes on otherwise I’ll forget what I did).

I’ll finish this round of review by March 5. No matter what. That’ll give me plenty (!) of time to focus on the items I postponed. I’ll have to prioritize that stuff — but that’ll wait till next week.

A little worried.

I’ve had my manuscript back for 10 days.

My book has 93 chapters.

I’ve revised through Chapter 20.

I need to pick up the pace.

Basic math says that I should revise 3 chapters per day if I want to finish by the night of Feb 27. Problem is, I haven’t been revising every day — work, family, recreation, sleep, the unexpected. Not to mention mental exhaustion.

Had I ignored my proofreader’s advice, I’d only have given myself two weeks to revise. Dodged that bullet.

It nicked me though.

Back to work.

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.