Monday, October 19, 2015

The Dream That Sparked the End

Frigga, from Marvel's Thor
Last week we ended with dragons.

This week, we're going to pick up a small stepping stone in between us and the legend of the dragon by focusing on the legends that necessitated having a dragon. If you missed last week, I shared some of the inspiration behind the setting for my upcoming novella, When Ravens Fall. With nine Norse worlds to choose from, it was very difficult for me to choose just one but you can read a little bit about why I chose the Niflheim on my previous post.

Today I'm going to share the first part of a series on the character legends that inspired my story. As I mentioned before, nearly all of my characters were inspired directly by Norse characters, but there is one character--a very important character--who was inspired by a "type" rather than a specific person. Kenna, the Enchantress in this Beauty and the Beast mash up, was inspired by the volva. These women were the wise women, the seers, the magic wielders in many of the old myths. In my story, I refer to them as Bone Women. The volva were also known as fjölkunnig which means "plenty of knowing." Kenna's name actually means "knowledge," so although she is purely a fictional character, I took care to ensure she still has important ties to the myths.

Before we continue on with the Bone Women, I want to take a brief detour and mention two minor characters in my story who have close ties to Kenna: Odin's Ravens, Hugin and Munin. Oh my goodness, I love these two! Hugin "thought" and Munin "memory or desire" were Odin's sidekicks. They traveled the world gathering news for the King. I chose to develop their personalities around the meaning of their names, which created an interesting dynamic between them, two sides of the same coin. I also chose to make them brothers, as I have a fondness for brothers. I have so many of them, can you blame me? As to HOW these two are similar to Kenna, I'm going to leave that for the story to explain. I don't want to spoil the read. 

Back on topic! While there are several Bone Women in my story, the most important one is a woman named Frigg. Frigg, in the ancient myths, is one of Odin's wives and the mother of Baldr, whose spelling I changed to Baldur for ease of reading. Like the Greek myths, the Norse gods were not exactly known for their fidelity. Odin had at least two wives, that I have found, Frigg and Freyja. However, since both women were known for many of the same things, I chose to mash them into one person and avoid the polygamy thing altogether. (Really not a fan anyway). There was some debate in the different sites I visited about whether Frigg and Freyja might even be one person, since they were so similar. While I chose to follow the story line associated with Frigg, her personality is probably closer to that of Freyja, who was also the goddess of war and death. I also chose to keep Frigg's name because I liked how short and punchy it sounded, while Freyja seemed more of a gentle, pretty name.

The legend of Frigg is rather a tragic one. Gifted with prophetic dreams, Frigg foresees the death of her son, Baldur, at Ragnarok, the Norse equivelant of Armageddon. It is also suggested that Baldur shared these premonitions. In order to prevent his fate, Frigg exacts a promise from all living things on earth that none of them will harm her son. However, she neglects the mistletoe because she feels it is too young to take such a grave vow. This proves to be her undoing, because Loki gets wind of this oversight and uses mistletoe to murder Baldur at Ragnarok.


Sadly, Loki had no place in my story so his angle in the legend (and the mistletoe's) was completely ignored. However, many of the other aspects of the legend tied in so well with the Beauty and the Beast story line. Rarely does a mashup blend so well, with so little effort. It amazed me how naturally the plot fell into place, once I determined Frigg and Baldur would be the driving force behind the tale.

I also would have loved to explore the concept of Ragnarok, but this would have required a story of epic proportions, something I could not even consider in a short novel like When Ravens Fall. Perhaps someday I can come back to this idea, but sadly not today. Since I could not use Ragnarok as the "symbol" for Baldur's impending death, I needed to come up with something else to threaten him, to haunt his dreams and threaten the destiny he would have chosen for himself.

That's where the dragon comes in.

Apologies. You will have to wait for Part Two to find out the rest.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

On the Subject of Myths

Today I am going to take a few moments to talk about my journey researching for my upcoming novella, When Ravens Fall. As I have mentioned before, I conceptualized and wrote this story in six weeks. This is quite the feat for someone who works full time and likes to project hop as I do. (Seriously, I'd make a good Easter Bunny.) But since this story was so heavily influenced by Norse legends, it required a shockingly large number of hours devoted solely to research, which only partially took place during the six weeks it took me to actually brainstorm and write the story. After I finished the first draft, I had to go back and spend many, many more days researching the culture and myths of the ancient Norsemen to make sure my story, although pure fantasy, was both respectful to the old legends and believable. I also wanted to make sure that I chose to use only the legends that would tie the story together. I was concerned that by drawing upon such a huge selection of characters and legends that the heart of the story would become quagmired.

Yes, I made up that variation of the word. But it suits this situation so nicely.

I learned so many fascinating tidbits about Norse mythology. This was the first time I had ever written a story based off of these legends. I've dabbled in many of the fairy tales, in Robin Hood and Arthurian legends, in American and British History and even the fathomless mysteries of outer space. But I'd never done any research into the Norsemen. Nearly all of the characters in When Ravens Fall are inspired either directly from actual characters in Norse legend or as imaginary companion characters to actual legends. This led me into another problem: nearly all the legends had multiple variations that I had to sift through to determine which variation of that particular legend I liked the most and which ones would be compatible with a fairy tale mash-up. 

Oh my giddy aunt, WHAT a treasure trove of wealth. Think "Lonely Mountain" quality. I am going to be devoting several posts to this topic because I simply cannot fit it into one. Today I'm going to focus on the physical setting and next week I will dive into the individual character legends. 

To begin with, Norse mythology revolves around a nine world system. NINE WORLDS. For the purpose of my tale, I had to choose only one. I narrowed it down to three potential options before I finally settled on the Niflheim, the land of ice and cold, also known as the "Mist World" by some texts. I chose this one because I wanted a setting that reflected the harshness of the society and also blended well with the direction I intended to take the "magical system" of my world. I am referring to the Mist World here. The Mists play a very large role in my story world's mythology, back story and resolution. This is a subject I intend to come back to in another post.

I took great liberties with the setting. While Midgard or Middle Earth is supposed to be the land of humans, I chose to place humanity directly in the Niflheim because the setting fit perfectly with the plot and played so well off my character pool. It is a brutal and cold world with brutal and cold customs. Take into consideration that the Norsemen revered courage and feats in battle so much they were a requirement for getting in the the Norse afterlife. The Valkyrie would only spirit away the most noble and victorious of warriors to Valhalla, where they would feast and battle for all eternity. Grim, I know, but that's what they believed. Of course, in such a terrible world there will be terrible villains as well. I knew immediately that I would be centering this story around a dragon, although I was very intrigued by the stories about the Frost Giants. Sadly, I only mention them in passing in this tale. I hope to return to them someday and imagine what they could be like. (Yes, I am already working on a sequel). 

And this is where I must end for the day, on the subject of dragons, because once I get into that kettle of fire, I will surely smolder for hours. Oh how I love dragons! I cannot wait to tell you about the wicked dragon who causes so much mischief in this little tale. Do be patient, however, for there are several other characters I must introduce before we get to the dragon.

"The roses are dying and the sky burns red like fire. The times tell the tale of the end.

And the end is always the Dragon."

Since it always comes back to the Dragon, he can wait for his turn at center stage.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Still Breathing

I am still alive, everyone. Have no fear! I am simply swamped with a busy schedule. Between work and home improvements and editing, I have not had much free time of late. My husband and I just finished our bedroom and finally got to move out of the living room after a year and a half. I cannot overly express how exciting this was. We also made some changes to our kitchen layout to make it more functional. I love it so much better now.

 I am nose-hair deep into the final edits for both After and When Ravens Fall. These two projects have been all consuming. My beta readers sent me scads of wonderful notes for me to consider and am I busy tweaking things where needed to keep things easy to understand and flowing nicely. I cannot emphasize enough how thankful I am for my beta readers. They were awesome. Many thanks to Tammy, Meredith, Rebekah and Jenelle! I could not do this without you.

I also want to thank Nay and Stephanie for all the work they have been putting into the edits for these two stories. I would be lost without you both!

I am so excited for the release of When Ravens Fall. I am hoping to be able to announce a date in the next few weeks. There are still a few details to work out and some final edits to be done, but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will be doing something a bit different for the actual launch which I hope everyone will enjoy and appreciate. More on that to come.

As to what I am reading right now (because I am always reading something): my brother-in-law loaned me this very interesting book called Codeword: Catherine. It's based a true story about two missionaries who try to smuggle ten royal children out of Ethiopia. So far I am enjoying it immensely.

I will hopefully be paying much more attention to my blog very, very soon. I apologize for the long periods of silence, but blogging does require much time and attention which I simply had to devote to other projects. But I will be getting back into a routine soon, I hope. In light of the "hopefully-soon" release of When Ravens Fall,  I will be doing a few posts on this story to introduce you to the characters and the story world. I have become very attached to this story. I wrote it in a six week whirlwind, on a whim, and have not been able to get these characters out of my head. I fear more tales are begging to be told from these ones. They are most persistent. Last November, I sat down one day to sketch out a scene for a Beauty and the Beast story from the perspective of the Enchantress. It irritates my with the Disney version that the catalyst for the entire story has such a tiny, tiny role in the story--which is why I removed her entirely from Wither. I felt she wasn't needed for that story. But, this decision inspired me to write a story that gave this character a much bigger role. In a few short days, the plot for When Ravens Fall burst to life. This tale is about about restoration and coping with tragedy. All of the characters are struggling with something, either in their past or their future, which haunts them and drives their actions. Some of them behave well, some of them do not, but they are all entangled together. I have never enjoyed writing a tale as much as I enjoyed this one. It was fast, furious and enchanting. I am still caught in its spell. I hope you will be, too!

To whet your appetite here is the song from my Ravens playlist which reminds me of Kenna--the poor, misguided Enchantress in my story.