I am currently working on a series called The Ten Worlds, which is based on the Norse cosmology and mythology. The first two books will be a duology Children and Land. In the “My Norse Gods” series I am going to introduce the Gods the way they are described in The Ten Worlds which might or might not be in agreement with either the academic resources or what other heathens might believe.

If I were in charge of casting the upcoming Netflix series based on my books, Loki would be played by Jared Leto.

 

Loki

The Marvel universe, which I will unfortunately have to mention quite often, created the Father (Odin), Son (Thor), and the Devil (Loki) to explain the Norse Gods to those who either follow, or at least have basic understanding of Christianity. None of those three job descriptions are correct, with the exception of Thor being Odin’s son. The dichotomy of the Good All-Father God vs Evil Trickster Devil is false, if only because the Norse faith doesn’t contain universal concepts of “good” and “evil”. (As an aside, we don’t have a concept of “sin” either.) When the Vikings fought the Christians, the Christians told themselves they were the side of the good. Vikings were the side that wanted to win. Odin is not the “God”, more about which later, and Loki is not “Devil”. Loki is chaos, curiosity, and fun – as he defines it. He takes things away, gets caught, brings back something better – if you can force him or convince him otherwise.

It is so difficult to explain Loki that entire books have been devoted to him – such as The Problem of Loki by Jan de Vries, which gave me a headache. Some Ásatrúar (the organised heathen religions) refuse to have anything to do with Loki, even forbidding any form of worship of Loki during their gatherings. Yet Loki is also Thor’s best friend and it is thanks to Loki that Thor received his hammer Mjölnir. Would you really dare to tell Thor “you’re welcome here, but only if your buddy stays away”. Is it better to celebrate the bringer of chaos, potentially attracting his attention, or to push him away, potentially attracting his attention?

Loki’s catchphrase is “what’s the worst that can happen?”.

 

Family tree

While the resources name Loki’s parents, I found it more interesting to just have him appear from nowhere, unbound by any loyalties, family relations, on nobody’s side but his own. He marries a poor woman named Angrboða, who bears him three children – Hel, who is the loveliest Goddess of death you’ll ever meet, especially if you manage to ignore the fact that half of her is decomposed; the Serpent of Midgard, who is, well, a serpent encircling Midgard; and Fenrir, the wolf that never stops growing, becoming a source of great concern for the Gods. Another of his children is Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged stallion, and according to the myths, Loki is the horse’s mother. Later on Loki marries Sigyn, who remains faithful to him until the Universe ends. With Sigyn Loki has more children, ones that are neither serpents, horses, nor decomposed. They are not mentioned in Children and/or Land, so I’m going to talk about them some other time.

Quite a few Gods are (shape-)shifters, but Loki is the most talented of all of them, as he is the only one who can change gender in addition to everything else, limited only by his imagination. (For once, when he’s bragging about something he’s telling the truth.) During Loki’s brief career as a bridesmaid she is not a man in a dress – Loki is a woman at that point. Like all shifters, though, Loki has his favourite form, pictured above – Jared Leto at his most cult-leader-like. When appearing in this form, Loki prefers the pronouns he/him.

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In the last days of December I sent the current revision of Children, my upcoming second book, to beta readers and my editor. I’ve spent nine months doing little else but working on the book, got myself on the verge of burnout, and I’m honestly grateful for the break. Still, I think it’s time to start talking about it a bit more.

When I was trying to figure out what genre I was writing – I went from “literary Nordic mythic fantasy” through “this is really quite grim and dark” to “oh… there is a genre called ‘grimdark’, I wonder what that is?” – it occurred to me that there was something unusual about Children. There are many books that, on the surface, seem not quite unlike this one, there are the Marvel comics and movies, but I don’t know how many actual religious people would purposefully alter their God(s) to write more compelling fiction. All I could think of was Good Omens, which would be a good fit if Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman actually were/are Christians. From what 0.854 minutes of Googling told me, Gaiman is a lapsed Scientologist and Sir Terry was a devout atheist.

I didn’t need a search engine to realise I was writing fanfic about my own Gods. I believe that in most religions this would be seen as…awkward.

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A week or two ago I saw yet another of those Best Books of 2019 articles in An Important Newspaper. I was surprised by how predictable that list was, but not by the complete absence of indie writers. One of my Twitter followers tagged the article’s author, mentioning the indie scene never getting noticed unless the indie author gets offered a “real” contract. The response was “one of those publishers is a very small indie press”. (I checked. The very small indie press was home to more than 30 authors.) This, unfortunately, wasn’t the question, but once it got clarified the article’s author didn’t respond anymore. An indie writer is not one that has a perfectly normal contract with a perfectly normal publishing house which calls itself indie because it’s not an imprint of the Big 5.

The publishing market has been evolving at the speed of light, single-handedly upended by a certain Jeff Bezos. The monopoly of the agent-editor system is falling apart and unsurprisingly the people who make money out of it don’t like it. The main weapon the Big 5 still have against self-publishers and indie authors is discoverability via The Important Newspapers and The Important Newspapers also know that. Publishers Weekly now offers reviews to indies, except the authors hoping to have their book reviewed have to pay hundreds of $$$ for the privilege. The Best Books Of 2019 You Have Never Heard Of lists tend to be variations on the same fifty titles. What possibly baffles me the most are the well-publicised one-star reviews of really awful books, the only merit of which is that they were published by Simon & Schuster rather than Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Out of the six best books I have read this year five were written/published by indies. Why don’t those books get press? Because they don’t sell enough. Why don’t they sell enough? Because they don’t get press. It used to just be the publishers who made sure some voices would never be heard. Now that there are ways to go around publishers, media gleefully took over the role.

Here are some great indie books I’ve read this year and would recommend to anyone, and there is a chance you’ve really never heard about them. Before I begin, though, I would like to thank all the book bloggers who put their time and work and dedication into helping indie writers and their audiences find each other.

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