Backstory

Be Aware! Autism!

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.”)

Non-Starred Review, or Where Is My Integrity

 

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.

Why Bjørn Writes

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:

“All-Father…”
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.”
“This isn’t…”
“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.

Blog Tag: Indie Author

 

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.

How to earn a burnout

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.

Guest post: Chaos, Fidelity, and Salt

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?

Liquid fire

Guess who this is? (Hint: it is I) Floradorp New Year’s celebration, 2013/2014.

As a kid, I was incessantly bullied. I was fat, bad at all sports, extremely introverted, wore thick glasses, I lived inside books and mixtapes I made. I was so smart I excelled at everything (but sports) but not smart enough to understand that always knowing all the answers and bragging about how I never had to study for tests didn’t make me popular. (Emotional intelligence was not strong in this one at the age of 7.) So I avoided the other boys. I was both alone and lonely most of the time, my companions being books and music, but twice a year I would be rewarded with magic.

Back in the 1980s, every worker was sent on subsidised vacations. We’d pick one out of, I don’t know, three near identical locations, and go there for two weeks, paying silly money – think €10 per day for a family of three. Certain traditions were always observed during those outings. The first evening without rain would be the “evening of friendship,” where the kids would be obnoxious together, adults would get drunk, then at some point the kids would get sent to bed.

Except me.

No, really…

When Storytellers came out in March 2019, I kept obsessing about sales and reviews, refreshing my Amazon dashboard, checking Goodreads four times a day (HAHAHAHA more like forty). My first one-star review didn’t upset me – I knew I was bound to get one eventually and almost felt validated. I was a real, rejected author now! But, also, Storytellers was no longer my only baby and the love of my life. It quietly disconnected itself from me – I was working on my second book, Age of Fire, urban fantasy with Norse Gods in it.

I got a bit drunk on the five- and four-star reviews coming from complete strangers. They weren’t my friends or family members trying to humour me. Now all I had to do was write the next book, then the next one, and each would be better just because I was clearly really good at this.

Big mistake. Huge.

I wrote about video games, which I don’t actually play, then dumped all my knowledge of Reykjavík into it, including which supermarkets were the cheapest (Bonus) and how Icelanders socialised (in the public pools), and I felt so proud of this incredible… 

…turd.

The True Meaning of Christmas

Guest post by Elísabet R. Viðarsdóttir

 

The Norse, with their gods and myths, sailed ashore in Iceland, the land of magical creatures both living and dead. In order to settle the island, the Norse knew they needed permission from these creatures.

The living conditions on the island were harsh, especially during the long, cold and dark winters. The only thing alive in nature was the evergreen tree. It truly was Yggdrasil, the eternal tree that holds everything together.

Crops were scarce, leaving little food for the animals. This forced the farmers to slaughter some of them and preserve the meat for winter. Thank goodness for the gods and the otherworldly beings who blessed them and helped them survive through their hardships.

December came and the farmers could finally look forward to longer days and shorter nights.

 

It was time for Winter Solstice, a time to celebrate and honor the gods for all they had done.

The farmers prepared a big feast with the leftover grains, meats, mead and wine. It was the perfect time to celebrate. It was a new season where all the good things in life begin anew with a turn towards brighter days on the Wheel of the Year.

Is this even \”writing\”?

There are three sorts of writers. Plotters, who come up with the plot first, then write their characters to follow it. Pantsers, who kind of grip to the edge of their seat and watch what happens. And Artistés, who develop characters that become so real they refuse to do what we want them to.

Storytellers got 21 rewrites and took me 26 months to write, because I haven’t learned yet what sort of a writer I was. I had my plot, a few important characters, and multiple stick figures. When my editor said to me “the only differences between your female characters are whether they’re pregnant or not” I felt, as a noted feminist, that there was a massive challenge in front of me. But when I started giving them personality traits, they stopped doing what I wanted them to.

Guðrún no longer wanted to devote her life to being a figure in the background whose task was listening to others. She turned out to be assertive, fun, selfish, strong, and didn’t suffer fools gladly. Once she started talking and acting, the other characters needed to become alive as well. Including the fools. Mannerisms, clothes, duties, habits, attention to hygiene, attitude towards religion, neuroticism… In the meantime I had a plot, or thought so. Things kept going out of control until I figured everyone out, even characters that only appeared once for approximately 15 seconds. Only then the pile of paragraphs finally started feeling like a book.

This was my first clue that I was going to be an Artisté, but I didn’t know that yet. I just thought I had no idea what I was doing. (That was true.)

Scroll to Top