Ginnungagap – or – The Blank Page

Before there is something, there isn’t quite nothing, because there is always the possibility of something. This is the blank page, empty but waiting to be filled. In Norse mythology, the blank page that waited to be filled was known as Ginnungagap.

photo-1433086981895-12ca61d33d40Ginnungagap is the yawning chasm, the bottomless abyss, the primordial void. It wasn’t exactly empty. Strange mists flowed through the void. In the north, the mists gathered to become the intensely cold Niflheim. To the hot south, they became Muspelheim, land of fire and home to the demon, Surtr.

Deep within the mists lay the Well of Life, Hvergalmir, and ice was gathering over top. That grinding ice was filled with life and the first two beings came into existence. Ymir, father of all ice giants, great and terrible, was created alongside Audumla, the magic cow who licked the salt from the ice and in turn fed Ymir with her milk.

While Ymir drank from Audumla, the magic cow’s raspy tongue uncovered more beings from the ice. The first one to be released was Buri, first of the Norse gods and grandfather to Odin, who with his brothers would slay Ymir.

As time went on, the world tree was planted and the broken body of Ymir was used to craft the nine worlds of Norse cosmology, and the chaos of Ginnungagap found structure. Though in the final battle of Ragnarök, the fire demon, Surtr, will return the cosmos to a state of possibility, we can enjoy life today.

In writing, or any creative endeavor, we know this cycle well. In the beginning, we have little more than possibilities and a blank page. But as the mists swirl over our creative well, the ideas take shape and we give them life. To one end of our mind, we are tempted to burn what we have created and to the other extreme we want to lock it in a drawer and freeze it in time. But if we can find the balance to let the well do its job, we l’ll have a project worth crafting.

At first, our idea is a monster, a father of ice giants. But along with our Ymir, we have a magic cow slowing licking our good ideas to life. In time, those good ideas will triumph over the bad ones, allowing us to build a world from Ymir’s bones, skull-cap, and eyebrows (seriously, Odin and his brothers used every part to create our world), and a better story comes to life.

It all starts with a blank page, with Ginnungagap.

Next time, we’ll look at how to protect our creations during the final battle of Ragnarök, or as it is known to writers, the submissions process.

Advertisements

Your Writing & Tyr’s Sacrifice

What are you willing to give up for your writing?

In Norse mythology, there’s this story about Tyr, the god of war. The story actually starts with Loki, a recognizable name due to Marvel’s Thor and Avengers films, but the historic Loki was far more devilish than Tom Hiddleston’s onscreen version.

In the myths, Loki was a distant cousin turned blood-brother of Odin, the head of the Norse pantheon, and in the early days of the world, they would travel and have adventures together. But one day, Loki’s true nature reveals itself and he elopes with a giantess named Angrboda (literally “She Who Bodes Anguish”), leading to the birth of three monster babies: Hel, a half-dead witch who is placed in charge of the underworld; Jormungand, a sea-serpent large enough to encircle the earth; and Fenrir, a wolf that frightens even the most powerful gods of Asgard.

Once Hel and Jormungand are dispatched, the gods of Asgard decide they need to do something about Fenrir, but only Tyr, the god of war, is brave enough to go near the beast. In an effort to contain Fenrir, the gods challenge the wolf to be bound by a series of chains in order to show off his strength. Fenrir easily breaks all chains but the last one, Gleipnir, which was forged with magic by the dwarfs of Svartalfheim with incredibly rare ingredients (the beard of a woman, the sound of a cat’s footsteps, the breath of a fish, and so on).

tyr_and_fenrir-john_bauerBut when Tyr approached Fenrir with Gleipnir, the wolf smelled a ruse. So before he agreed to be bound with the magic chain, Fenrir demanded that one of the gods place a hand in his mouth as a measure of goodwill. If the god in question breaks the wolf’s trust and truly binds him instead of merely testing his strength, then that god loses his hand. And in the time when these myths were told, it was equally dishonorable to be an oath-breaker as it was to be maimed.

For Tyr, the safety of all of Asgard was at stake, so he bravely volunteered, knowing that it would cost him his hand and he would be dishonored in the process. Thus it was that the Norse god of war lost his sword hand, but Asgard was kept safe until the final battle of Ragnarok.

As writers, we are gods of war against the blank page, fighting with our words to bind our story into a safe and marketable form. But if we want to make use of our magical chains, we need to be willing to make some sacrifices. Tyr risked shame and the loss of his hand to bind Fenrir. What are you going to give up in order to get your story into shape?

Unfortunately, sacrifices are never easy. We often have to give up good things in the pursuit of something better. Just like Tyr was the only Norse god who could handle Fenrir, you are the only one who can write your book. So stick your hand in the mouth of the beast and don’t look back until you’ve chained yourself a completed manuscript!
Bio: Josh Mosey is an avid fan of Norse mythology and a member of the Weaklings writer’s group which organizes the Jot writers conference. Come see Josh’s presentation “Write Like a Viking: Fiction Writing Tips from the Norse Gods” at the Breathe Conference on Saturday afternoon.

A Few Words about Discovery House

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak at a meeting of the Word Weavers in West Michigan. One of their members asked me to talk about my employer, Discovery House, as well as my involvement with the Jot Writer’s Conference and blogging. As you are reading this, I’m going to assume that you are familiar with my blogging history, and I know that I’ve blogged in the past about the Jot Writer’s Conference, but aside from a couple posts about my move to Discovery House, I haven’t written much about my employer.

Let’s fix that.

dh_logoWho is Discovery House?

Discovery House is the book publishing arm of Our Daily Bread Ministries (ODBM). ODBM has over 75 years of ministry experience. Starting as a radio ministry in Detroit, Dr. M. R. DeHaan was a preacher with a vision for getting people into their Bibles by using all available methods. Thus, the radio ministry started producing monthly devotionals known as Our Daily Bread, but branched out to include the television program “Day of Discovery” (started in 1968 and is one of the longest running Christian television programs), book publishing with Discovery House Publishing, and online Christian education programs with Christian University GlobalNet and ChristianCourses.com

Discovery House was established in 1987 as a way to delve further into the Bible and it’s life application in ways that were impossible with the Our Daily Bread devotionals.

“The goal of Discovery House is to publish books that feed the soul with the Word of God, fostering growth and godliness in the lives of God’s people. That was part of our founding vision, and we want it to be true of each new release that we offer. Whether you’re looking for books, music, video, audio, software, greeting cards, or content to download, we try to provide you with materials that focus on Scripture, that show reverence for God and His Word, that demonstrate the relevance of vibrant faith, and that equip and encourage you in your life every day.” –Carol Holquist, publisher

What does Discovery House publish?

my_utmostOur #1 best-seller is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Discovery House is the authorized publisher of the Oswald Chambers Publication Association and has exclusive rights to all of Chambers’ writings.

Our top books for this past year have been the Our Daily Bread for Kids Devotional by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley, The Discovery House Bible Atlas by John Beck, Prayers for Your Children by James Banks, A Grandmother’s Prayers by Kay Swatkowski, The Our Daily Bread Devotional Collections (new each year), and Adventuring Through the Bible by Ray Stedman.

How many books does Discovery House publish each year?

Between 25 – 30, though that doesn’t necessarily include re-cover projects or new editions of existing publications.

What type of books is Discovery House looking to acquire?hurt_people

Discovery House loves books with long tails. We are known for our devotional offerings, but we publish a number of topical books as well. We do not publish fiction and we’ve only just ventured into the academic sphere with the Bible Atlas and the children’s arena with Our Daily Bread for Kids. We are not currently seeking submissions for children’s products as all of the plans for our children’s line are being commissioned by the publishing house. This coming year, we are publishing devotionals, bible study material, books on prayer, Christian living titles, memoirs, and a couple of book apps.

How does Discovery House acquire its books?

There are three main ways that we get the books that we publish: unsolicited manuscripts, agented books, and commissioned products. Most publishers only publish the last two of types of acquisitions. For new projects, Discovery House publishes mostly unsolicited manuscripts.

What are the submission guidelines?

You can find them here.

If you are ever in the West Michigan area, you can feel free to stop in for a tour, where there is a chance that you would hear a lot of this information again. But on the tour you would also get to learn about Our Daily Bread Ministries as a whole and even see the big printing presses where they are made. Thanks for reading!

New Word I Just Learned: Blad

“Blad” sounds like a third-rate vampire knock-off movie (either as a mix of “blood” and “Vlad” if it is a classic vampire movie –or– as a misspelling of “Blade” which is a different kind of vampire/vampire-hunter protagonist), and maybe it is, but it is also an underused publishing term.

papereen-26-1420209A “blad” is a booklet, used as an advertisement. It’s probably a mashup of the words “blurb” and “ad.” And the publishing industry uses them frequently, though you may recognize them differently in the current digital age. For instance, the “Look Inside” feature on most Amazon book listings is essentially a “blad.”

In doing my research for the word, I’ve come across another reason why “blad” should be brought back into use. It is also a bit of a play on words, because “blad” is related to the word “blade,” which is the Proto-Germanic version of “leaf”. Think about a blade of grass. Same thing. But, wait a second! What are the pages of a book called? Leaves. Thus, on a whole different level a “blad” is a subsection of a book.

So now that you know, you can help me make “blad” popular again.*

*I have no idea if it was ever a popular word. But I think it should be.

On Book Giveaway Contests

The following is excerpted from a piece that I wrote for my job called “I’m Published! Now What?” It’s meant for those first-time published authors to do a bit of self-promotion for their new book, but the same rules could be applied to other things that need promoting (like a blog).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Book giveaway contests are fun opportunities to reward the people who already follow you and get your writing into the hands of those who may not. Here are a few simple strategies for social media book giveaway contests.

You can:

  1. Invite people to like the post in which you announce the giveaway contest. Be sure to include an image of the book that you are giving away. Choose at random the winner from among the people who “liked” the post. Contact them via private message and announce in the comments when the contest is over.
  2. Have people leave a comment on your post and choose the winner from among the commenters. This encourages engagement with you and is more of an investment on their part.
  3. Invite people to post a video to your page. You choose what the video should be. Is it a testimonial about you or your writing? Is it a homemade commercial for your book? You decide. The advantage here is that when people create something, their own social circles are more likely to watch it, thus expanding your reach into their personal circles.
  4. Invite some feedback by having people comment between two different options. If you are writing a new book, invite people to give feedback on chapter titles or specific phrases. When people have input into your writing, they feel more connected to your final product.

On Marketing Your Book with Blog Swaps & Blog Tours

The following is taken from a project that I’ve been working on at my job. It is part of a resource for authors to use upon the release of their book into the marketplace. But this post is applicable to anyone looking to grow their platform. Enjoy!

Perhaps you have a blog of your own. Here are a couple of ways you can use it:

A blog swap works just like it sounds. Contact a fellow blogger and trade posts. You send a post to them to put up on their site and they send you a post to put up on your blog. This gets your writing in front of their readers and vice-versa. Everyone wins.

blog_swaps_and_blog_toursA blog tour amplifies the effects of a blog swap, and a successful one is months in the making. Where blog swaps are reciprocal, blog tours don’t have to be. Basically, it is a virtual book tour that takes your writing to new audiences on new blogs. You will be sending content (a post, an interview, etc.) to a number of blogs for them to post, then you direct your readers to their blogs. You are basically trading exposure for the participating blogs. The tour can cover any amount of time that you decide.

First, make a list of bloggers whose content would lend itself to your audience and where you can write something that will appeal to their audience. For example, you may want to write a lighthearted post for a blogger who typically writes humorous posts, but you may want to share your writing process on a blog that appeals to a more literary audience. Your goal is to convince the readers of other blogs that they want to read what you’ve written.

You will need to decide for yourself which blogs you will approach. Some authors may focus on only those blogs with large readership. Others may be willing to focus on a more grassroots effort and focus on smaller blogs. To generate the list of bloggers you will ask to feature you in a blog tour, go to the blogs that you read first, ask your Facebook friends who blog, and work out to their connected blogs as long as you think your writing and their readership are a good fit.

On Making Shareable Images for Social Media Applications

Did you know that Facebook posts with images perform better than posts without? True fact.

One of the first things that I was asked to do in my new job was to help an author whose book had just been published. She was excited about her book and wanted to know what else she could do to promote it herself.

Now, before I go any further, let me just say how important it is for an author to promote their own books. It’s vital! If you don’t believe in your own writing enough to tell your friends about it, how can you expect anyone else to get excited about it?

Okay, so there was this author who was just looking for some basic self-promotion and marketing tactics. I decided that a good way to help her would be to show her how to start a 30-day social media campaign using graphics that she can make and use by herself.

“But I don’t know anything about making graphics,” you say. “I’m new to computers in general and I have no artistic ability.”

Don’t be such a Negative Nancy. You can do it. There are websites to help you.

The site I recommended to the aforementioned author was canva.com, but another you can use is picmonkey.com. Both of these sites are free to use (though they do have content that can cost you money, depending on how pretty you want your graphic to be), and feature simple tutorials to get you started.

Once you start a free account with one of the aforementioned image sites, I would recommend using a basic square image design. Square images are useful across multiple social media platforms (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).

If you have a finalized book cover, you can download it from your publisher’s website. Next, upload that image to one of the image sites and insert some short-but-dynamite quotes from your book in a text box. Use a nice background that somehow reflects the sentiments of your quote (or at least does not detract from it). And put a link to your product, website, or blog somewhere near the edge of your graphic so that when it is shared via social media, people will still know where they can buy your book.

If you don’t have a book cover yet, you can still use the above formula for your blog. The more engagement you have on your blog, the more likely it is that you have words worth reading, thus the more likely it is that your publishing dreams will come true.

Good luck and God speed!