This post originally appeared on my ko-fi blog, available for my supporters – thank you!
After I finished Storytellers, I started working on a disastrous book called The Age of Fire. Luckily I realised in time that not everything I wrote was genius just because it came from my brilliant mind, and shelved the thing. It featured a woman called Maya, though. Maya dressed only in black, had messy, mid-length hair, and liked silver bracelets.
When I started on Children, it had a different title, and was supposed to be Magni’s book, until Maya found out and announced she wasn’t just moving in, but would have half of it for herself, thanks.
This is how I write. [“I” – Ed.]
By now, as in 2023, I sometimes get a say regarding what happens in my books. When I was working on Children, which received 29 rewrites until it became the version it is, I was not blessed with the ability to negotiate yet. I would write something, Magni would take a look, and announce “I’d never do this.” When I inquired, he’d shrug and say “you’re the author, you figure it out.”
The sequel to Children is called Land. The book explains why the series is called The Ten Worlds, since our heroines and heroes travel from the Nine Worlds Universe to Iceland (where else?) and some of the survivors make it back. It’s going to be cinematic. Epic, actually. There’s everlasting love, but no romance; exploration of consent and abuse in uneven relationships; there’s Iceland and the Hidden Folk. Questions asked in Children are answered, riddles solved. Aha, Land also doesn’t exist, even though I officially announced it, somewhat optimistically, as a 2021 release.
It’s a grown up book. I had to grow up first.
The first sign that I wasn’t ready was deciding to send an outline to a sensitivity reader (let’s call them Mel), because I wanted to make sure I’m doing the right thing. Some of my new characters are Black-coded – dark elves. One of the reasons is that I want to make Norse fantasy less white. I worried… nah, I was terrified that I was just wasting time. That I wasn’t doing it right.
I’ve had a few people tell me they see me as an expert on everything Norse. A few others remarked they’d probably get more out of Why Odin Drinks if they knew more about the “real” mythology. Eeep! Don’t try this at home! Do you know how much stuff I totally destroyed to make up my own stuff?! You don’t, so I’ll tell you. Buckle up.
It took over 200 years from Iceland’s christianisation before Snorri Sturluson got to writing Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Have you ever played the telephone game? Imagine doing that for 200 years, writing down the results, and announcing this is exactly right. Except you might also get executed if you sound too excited about it.
The mythology (I recommend Kevin Crossley-Holland’s book The Penguin Book of Norse Myths) contradicts itself. It already contradicts itself in the first paragraph of the creation myth! Sometimes, myth A must happen before myth B, and vice versa. Some parts of the myths and Sagas have only survived partially. Some are hotly disputed, often depending on people’s agendas. (Crossley-Holland has his own, but he’s clear about it and lists other possible interpretations.)
I play fast and loose with what I know, which often isn’t all that much. I’m writing satire based on Norse mythology. I make up complete stories because there’s one sentence in the Eddas that inspires me. I create my own canon. If I say Baldr is Frigg’s favourite horse, he can’t turn out to be her son five books from now. That’s what limits me. Snorri’s versions are only a starting point.
Here’s the “original” myth of creation.
In the beginning there was Surtr
Here is how life began: the flames of Müspelheim and the ice of Niflheim met in a void called the Ginnungagap, creating steam, from which came a giant called Ymir.
Except Surtr, the God of fire, was already in Müspelheim before this happened, very much alive and ready to destroy the Universe that doesn’t exist at this point.
So, back to Ymir. He is a giant. Hard to say compared to whom. Possibly Surtr, although I don’t think so. Also, names already exist. When Ymir goes to sleep – it is not clear where; in the void, I assume – his armpits begin to sweat. This ooze creates the first man and first woman. (Gross.) His leg fathers a son on the other leg. (This is neither how legs or fathering work, but ‘k.) As the ice continues to melt, the fluids take the form of a cow, named Audhumla.
April is Autism Awareness Month.
Remember to be unaware of autism between 1 May and 31 March!
Some activists are trying to change the narrative to “autism acceptance month.” I can’t say I disagree, because yes, I am “aware” of autism. I am also aware of rabid dogs, my allergy to orange peel, and of the slugs in our garden. I’d argue, however, that “autism,” as in the word itself, is already widely accepted. Autistic people, not so much.
Among many other fun things, about which I’ll write some other time, autism is a communication disorder.
#ActuallyAutistic people are only acceptable to most neurotypicals (NTs) when our lives are either a motivational “success” story or a tragedy.
Autism is accepted when it’s either undetectable or crippling
We don’t understand and we don’t know what we’ve done or what you mean. When we ask questions, we do so to learn how to make you more comfortable. We adapt our behaviour and reshape ourselves based on this feedback. This costs us a lot of energy and destroys our sense of self. If you don’t tell us what you want us to be, we won’t know. We won’t earn the “you don’t look autistic” prize. (I told Husby that the next time we hear this he should say “Bjørn, please perform An Autism for the lady.”)
A while ago I decided to stop giving star ratings to books I am reviewing, unless the book is fantastic, 100% worthy of a five-star score, and I had nothing to do with it.
Before I begin: the examples below are all composites, unless I name them.
A few years ago I have read a book that was objectively bad. The heroine’s job, which was so important she met a Scottish farmer at a related conference – the reason why he attended it was unclear – disappeared once she moved into his farm. She didn’t quit the (freelance) job, it just never made an appearance again. The evil ex seemed to pop up when the author remembered she needed to exist, so that the book could be marketed at certain audience.
I loved that book. I thought I wanted to read a Scotsman rom-com. It turned out that I wanted to read exactly what the author has written: a love letter to farming, and not a romanticised one either. It would have been much better, had it not been billed as a rom-com to make marketing department’s job easier.
The writing/editing would earn it two stars if I were in generous mood. And I was! I five-starred it because of how happy it made me. It took me a while to realise that was the same score I have given to the best book I have read in my life, The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
My upcoming book, Why Odin Drinks – a collection of four novellas, including Creation – is what would happen if Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Hobbes – of the Calvin and Hobbes fame – decided to tackle Norse mythology. It’s sometimes bittersweet, because Pratchett; absurd, because Adams; and thoughtful, because Calvin and Hobbes. I aimed at writing a book that could be read on various levels – from cackling at peeing dispensers and Odin’s masculine wiles to contemplating various facets of the human condition.
Then reality went and up-ended my proportions somewhat.
Out of the four novellas, Creation is about life; Loki Runes Everything – about control; Fashionteller – about consequences of knowing too much about the future. The last story, The Well of Wise Dom takes a look at greed. What happens when you understand too much, know too much, predict too much, try to control the outcome, change the inevitable? This is what happens, apparently:
Odin smirked, the wrinkles around his lips deepening. “I was too stupid to know that I was right. You need to start wars to end them. Sacrifice lives to save them.”
“Frigg will tell me what I need to know,” Odin said coldly. The knuckles of his bony hand, gripping the staff firmly, whitened. “The only way to stop a great army is to have an even greater army. I will know what and when to expect. I will be there.”
[…] “That can’t happen!” Mímir erupted. “When you stir wars, they’ll lead to bigger wars. The more deadly weapons one side uses, the worse the other will invent.”
“Exactly,” Odin nodded. “I’ll lead the leaders. I’ll outwit the wittiest. And I’ll always have the best, the strongest, the hardest.”
Three days after I sent the final version of the book for proofreading, Russia invaded Ukraine.
A blog tag means multiple bloggers writing about the same subject, tagging others to continue. I’m months late (see the previous post for the reason) and never take part in blog tags (because I am always months late even without burnouts). This is a topic dear to me, though: why I decided to go the indie route. I was tagged by Raina Nightingale and the original idea came from Indie Author Blog Tag by R.M Archer.
Why do you publish Indie?
I’ve spent 26 months writing what eventually became Storytellers. In the first year or so it didn’t occur to me to even think of any option other than the agent-editor-publisher system; I wasn’t aware that self-publishing progressed past dinosaur erotica, to be honest.
I’ve spent most of 2018 researching the legacy (“traditional”) publishing vs indie, and the more I learned, the less excited I was about it. Like many aspiring authors, I thought that I’d get a marketing team to sell my books while I sat in my cabin in the woods, Creating Art. Unfortunately, this is not how reality works. First, debuts don’t get marketing budgets – the publisher will pick 1-2 books per season to give them that push. Those will be the stellar (or not) debuts you read about in the papers. But the same publisher actually puts out 400 new books (random number, not far from the truth, though) during those few months. Those authors rarely see money other than the advance – and in 2020 “zero advances” became a thing that means exactly what it says.
Yes, the “real” books are the ones that will make it to “Guardian’s Top 20 Most Anticipated Novels of 2022” – which won’t list a single indie. (My bet is that this will change within five years.) But top 20 only fits 20 books and most publications tend to list the same 20 books, just in different order. Those are the books that have enough of marketing budgets for the interns to send review copies around. (Did you know that when an author gets a traditional deal the interns might send review copies?)
I don’t have this sort of validation, but I have control.
So I went and gave myself a burnout, because I don’t learn.
I’ve sent the next Why Odin Drinks story to my editor and decided to tackle the genre that I’ve always found the most difficult: romance. I’ve done a lot of reading first, both of craft books and various sorts of other authors’ romances, noting what I did or didn’t like. I settled on sweet (nothing sexual happens on the page) m/m (it didn’t work, gay men have too many cocks to spend the night cuddling without at least one’s interest getting aroused, so it’s sweet-with-heat now). I started writing the first draft and here’s where I made the same mistake I always make: I stopped watching what I was doing.
I can, as in I am able to, work approximately three hours a day. Unfortunately, tasks that for most people are either unnoticeable or, at worst, irritating chores constitute work for me. Folding the laundry; cleaning the bathroom; cooking something more complicated than an egg; taking a shower; often simply reading. Therapy, obviously. Unfortunately writing is also on that list.
It’s escapism, I love doing it, and it exhausts my energy without me noticing, because I don’t want to notice. If you love your work, it isn’t work anymore, we all know that. So I’ve spent two weeks drafting my romance, navigating the complications and changing the plot as I went, and accidentally completing NaNoWriMo (fifty thousand words – an average romance novel clocks at 60-80 thousand) within two weeks. I wrote every day, of course – “you’re only a real writer if you write every day!” Then, to nobody’s surprise but mine, I crashed. Badly.
Today I am delighted to host Lyra Wolf, the author of Truth and Other Lies, The Order of Chaos, and That Good Mischief – books, in which Loki… you tell’em, Lyra!
Chaos, Fidelity, and Salt
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of ‘opposites attract,’ and I think you would be hard pressed to find a more opposite couple than Loki and Sigyn. When I started writing my The Nine Worlds Rising series, I knew from the beginning that their relationship was one I wanted to explore, and I cracked open as many books and articles on Norse lore as I could get my hands on.
What I found was that no one really knows who they are as a couple, what their function is, or why they got paired together at all. To make matters even more tricky, we know even less about Sigyn, other than she is very good at holding bowls over people’s heads for long periods of time.
Fantastic for me. Super awesome.
How was I supposed to write a series about a relationship that seemed to hold a lot of weight and power behind it, when all that remains of the lore is essentially a slice of Swiss cheese?