Month: May 2018

Glorious sun and deceitful word counts

The weather we’re currently blessed with in Sweden is out of this world. I’m profoundly impressed by my ability to time this with working from home, not being locked up in an office. Being able to work on my dream while enjoying cloud-free skies day in and day out surely makes for a smoooth life! (Let’s discuss financials another day.)

Last week I finished another round of editing, currently sitting with the third draft of Kilonova Blues beneath my fingertips. The manuscript’s really evolved during the past months and even though many of you surely can relate to never feeling “finished” editing, I’m still happy with where it’s at right now. Most major changes have been done, and for what grammar and language’s concerned, I’ve come as far as I can on my own and it’s definitely time to get some fresh eyes on the text.

The first draft came in on 111 390 words. Working with the second draft, I cut 3 436 words. Yay! I felt like a samurai warrior, ignoring my emotional ties, slicing the manuscript with my sword as though it was a simple cake. I wanted to cut down on some text to make it leaner and felt I was good underway.

Today I checked the current word count… 110 950! I’ve obviously added a shitload of new text and am only down 440 words from where I began. Ah! I just smashed my forehead and laughed before getting up to fetch a new cup of coffee. What to do?

I know this is not the final draft though, so I’ll just leave it as it is for now. In about two weeks I’ll send it to five competent and highly appreciated beta-readers, and I’ll await their reflections and feedback before making any other major changes to the text. Up till then, I’ll focus on formatting and minor changes, deleting an extra space here and there, maybe swap that word for this word and so on, you know the drill. AND – I’ll try to read the entire thing from a reader’s perspective without changing ANYTHING.

Dear Lord, give me strength.

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

computer sun

workstation sun

notebooks sun

editing sun

beverages sun

 

Self-Defense and Krav Maga

Last weekend I attended a two-day workshop in self-defense. Thirty-five women from all across the country, with various backgrounds, gathered outside Stockholm for forty-eight hours of authentic assault simulations. I can say that it is by far one of the most intense things I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally.

In Sweden, women between the ages 16-24 are overrepresented in the statistics regarding victims of sexual assaults (reported assaults of 2017). Half of the reported assaults occurred in public spaces, and in sixty percent of the total number of reports, the perpetrator was previously unknown to the woman. Ninety-eight percent of the perpetrators were men.

If these numbers weren’t enough to convince me that I have to learn how to defend myself, then the stories of some of the women I met this weekend definitely were.

This workshop was not like many others, where you mark your strikes and avoid impact. No, we struck to hit. During the warm-up Saturday morning we slapped each other’s faces without defending ourselves, just to get into the right spirit and build motivation.

Sounds too tough? Well, I’d lie if I didn’t say it’s not for the faint-hearted. But let me tell you something; we’re not made of porcelain. We can take it. And in the case you’re faced with a perpetrator, he won’t be gentle. The sooner you pull up the blinders and realize that, the better prepared you will be if the situation would present itself.

I urge all women to check the opportunities to learn self-defense in their local communities. The worst (read BEST) thing that could happen is that you’ll never have to use it, but then you’ve still gotten yourself a hell of a workout. The methods I learned were based on Krav Maga, which I can strongly recommend. I trained with The Swedish School of Self-Defense (Självförsvarsskolan), which in my opinion is the best alternative in Sweden, focused on keeping the exercises as close to real-life situations as possible. They’re based in Stockholm but do workshops all over the country.

This post’s been written from the perspective of being a woman, but my writer-self whispers from deep within that I’ve also gained a whole new file of fighting-experiences to use in my writing.

Take care of yourself and don’t worry you’re being paranoid, you’re just taking reasonable precautions.

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

Self-defense group

Self-defense in action

Self-defense t-shirt

Self-defense strikes

Self-defense bonfire

(Credit: The rights of all images belong to Självförsvarsskolan)

Defining fantasy and rhetoric strategies

Yesterday, I attended a seminar for grasping the complexity of the fantasy genre, led by Malin Alkestrand (PhD in literature, Linnaeus University). We discussed fantasy vs. the fantastic literature, how we can truly define fantasy literature, what ingredients make up a fantasy novel and much more.

But you’re a romance writer, how come you’re interested in this?

Two answers to that;

  1. As a writer you READ. A lot. You read both within your own genre and – I know, take a deep breath – you read other genres too.
  2. My work in progress Kilonova Blues is a paranormal romance, mainly built around elements of the religious myth of fallen angels.

I’d like to share some insights I got at this seminar and begin with what characterizes fantasy literature:

  • The writer introduces magic in some form.
  • There’s a comic rather than tragic structure to the story, most importantly a bright and happy ending, in contrast to the tragedy where most people die (think Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet).
  • The readers get to experience a distance from the real world in which they live.
  • The Myth Pot – the writer gathers inspiration from various myths, tales, sagas, legends etc. and creates a story with a new twist.

We also discussed four rhetoric strategies for fantasy, originally elaborated by Farah Mendlesohn, which the writer can choose from while building a fantasy story:

  1. Portal-quest fantasy
    – The protagonist enters a portal, taking her/him to a magic world.
    – This magic world can be either physical or mental, i.e. the protagonist can either enter a physical portal or undertake some sort of mental transportation from the known to the unknown. This transition can occur from a world with no magic to a world with magic OR – from a world with magic to another world with magic built upon another set of rules.
    – The reader gets to know the world parallel with the protagonist.
    – The protagonist sets out on a quest.
    Writing tip: Let the protagonist discover the new world together with the reader, and present the new and exciting from an astonished and at times critical point of view.
  2. Intrusive fantasy
    – Magic penetrates the normal world where the protagonist has lived hers/his whole life under “normal” circumstances until he/she comes in contact with the supernatural.
    – Neither the protagonist nor the readers ever get comfortable with the story’s supernatural features.
    Writing tip: Keep a clear distance to the magic, it can never feel safe and comfy. Keep the mystery of the supernatural alive.
  3. Immersive fantasy
    – There is only ONE world, the magic one, and the protagonist is born and raised there.
    – The protagonist is comfortable with her/his environment and hence there is not much detailed explanation of the supernatural.
    – The readers are placed on the protagonist’s shoulder, experiencing the magic through the eyes of the protagonist.
    Writing tip: Avoid explaining the magic to the readers. Do you have to explain something? Let an older character explain it to a younger who doesn’t fully understand which rules applies.
  4. Liminal fantasy
    – Balances the thin line of what is possible/impossible in our world.
    – The protagonist sees something (whatever it is, e.g. a man seemingly unaffected by the axe placed in the back of his head) as completely normal, played out in what’s described as the normal world, while the reader sees it as supernatural.
    – The writer doesn’t elaborate on whether it’s supernatural or not, but simply leaves it to the readers to decide and come to their own conclusions.
    Writing tip: Explain absolutely nothing. Do not categorize events as natural/supernatural. Leave everything open for interpretation.

Interesting, right? I love to learn new stuff.

Now I’m off to let my beloved cousin know I’m attending her wedding in South Africa this December, then I’m headed for a weekend in the Stockholm archipelago.

Nice and lovely, huh?

Not so much. I’m attending a three-day workshop, day and night, in self-defense (Krav Maga) to learn how to fight off rapists alongside forty other women. It’ll be intense not only physically, but mentally, and I’ve tried to prepare for weeks. I’ll tell you all about it in next week’s blog post.

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

Early summer and touching the reader

I can’t even begin to describe the beautiful past few days we’ve had in Sweden! All I can say is we skipped spring and jumped straight into summer. I don’t mind. I’ve moved my work station to the balcony and there I sit, editing with soft reggae in the background, the warm sunrays caressing my skin.

This week I’ve been working on apostrophes, quotation marks and switching out frequently recurring words. Today I’ll standardize the e-mails, time and dates, and tomorrow I’ll begin rephrasing sentences containing filter words. It’s no walk in the park to write a book! But how lovely it is to see it grow and evolve.

One thing I’m anxious and concerned about, writing my debut novel and all, is my ability to make the reader connect with the characters. They live in my heart, therefore I know them, but how do I know if you as a reader will too? I suppose this is a question all writers struggle with at one point or another.

This week I thought I’d share five tips on how to make the reader identify with your characters. It’s taken from a Swedish handbook in writing released last year, called “Fängsla dina läsare – väck spänning och berör på djupet” (Captivate your readers – evoke suspense and touch in-depth), written by Catrine Tollström.

Here it goes:

  1. Everyone can relate to existential problems. Sooner or later, we’re faced with issues of freedom vs. dependency, life’s perishability and the existential loneliness of the human.
  2. Who doesn’t want to dream away and be the hero or heroine once in a while? Most people enjoy looking up to main characters. However, don’t forget that even your super cool role model needs to be vulnerable. A person who’s only rich and good-looking can easily appear rather empty and become difficult to relate to. Which demons, fears and sorrows does the person carry inside? Do you want to depict the unhappiness masked behind the upper-class family’s shiny facade? Then you might have to work harder to gain sympathy.
  3. Move your readers through evoking vicarious feelings. Maybe the heroine in your humor manuscript is making such a fool of herself that the reader will want to hold a pillow in front of the book. The heroine herself won’t notice. In this case, it’s the character’s way of acting that moves the reader.
  4. It’s easy to keep your fingers crossed for the underdog. Of course we want the car enthusiast who’s fought the hardest to win the desert rally in the novel we’re reading. Especially since she doesn’t have the financial assets needed to get herself the equipment her competitors have. When they laugh at her, we find ourselves even more on her side.
  5. Touch through characteristics easy to relate to. Your super hero might be good at most things, but terrible at saying no. Of course, this results in a series of fun or serious consequences in the plot.

(Tollström 2017, p. 39-40)

Hope this gave you a new idea or two!

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

Editing and the tales of Walpurgis

Another peek into a writer’s life.

On Monday this week, April 30, Swedes celebrated Walpurgis. We gathered in crowds at sunset, lighting large fires, singing and watching fireworks. To many Swedes, this has become the symbol of spring – when the fires of Walpurgis’ been lit, spring has officially arrived.

But how did this come to be? Let me give you a short history lesson on one of the strongest Swedish traditions.

It began in the 8th century, in Germany. An abbess named Walpurga was the principal of a convent within the Catholic Church and the legend says she was originally an English princess, called to Germany by her uncle to help convert the Germans to Christianity. In her work, she was known to be particularly skilled at fending off witchcraft. She died in the year of 779 and was declared a saint a hundred years later on May 1, 870. The feast held that day got associated with May Day, especially in Sweden and Finland, and bonfires and dancing became tradition on the eve of May Day to ward off witches.

Another reason behind the festivities dates back to the Middle Ages, when the administrative year ended on April 30. This called for celebrations among merchants and craftsmen, and the eve of the feast was filled with dancing and singing in preparation for spring.

As farmers let out their animals to graze in the early 18th century, they began lighting bonfires to scare off predators. Younger people collected greeneries and branches from the woods and brought it out in the open, lighting it up on high spots.

Nowadays, the bonfires, singing and celebrations on Walpurgis night has become mainly a symbol of spring’s arrival, of light. At least in Sweden. Uppsala and Lund are two cities linked to the largest celebrations, but bonfires and choir singing are found all over Sweden on April 30, even in the smallest villages there are local celebrations.

Standing in front of the massive flames, feeling the heat tingle in your cheeks, joining in with the traditional, old Swedish songs, gives you more than happiness for spring’s arrival. It gives a sense of hope. We all made it through yet another dark and long winter, we came out on the other side, and what lies ahead is nothing but beauty. This might sound dramatic, but anyone who’s ever spent a winter in Scandinavia knows what I’m talking about. M-hm.

Speaking of hope on this gray Swedish Thursday; I’m feeling hopeful about yet another thing this week. I’m editing Kilonova Blues like crazy to get it ready to send out to my beloved beta-readers on June 18. And I actually think I’ll be able to make it. I’ve fallen in love with the story, and my deepest hope and wish is that eventually, you will too.

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

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