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.

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I’m back.

photo-1432821596592-e2c18b78144f

Well, here I am.

I stepped down from blogging two months ago in order to prepare for and participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. How did I do? I don’t have a novel, but I have a start. So that’s something, right?

The break from blogging was good in other ways too. I was able to spend more time with my wife and kids. I was able to make progress on some home repair projects. And I was able to get some perspective on whether my blog was a worthwhile investment of my writing energy.

On that last point, I found it pretty interesting that my break from adding posts for two months didn’t really hurt the number of daily visits that I had. Most people read my blog for two reasons, Raccoon Facts and the Origin of Bah Humbug. The few people who contributed to the daily visits for my newest content were mostly friends of mine from Facebook.

And now, I’m back–albeit somewhat differently than I was before. Here’s what you can expect from this blog: fewer posts with better focus.

Rather than just a space online where I can spill my thoughts, I want my blog to work for my writing career by being something of a resume for potential publishers to use when considering my stuff. In order for that to happen though, my posts need to be a bit more consistent with the areas in which I seek publication. That means that this will primarily be a place for flash fiction and thoughts related to fantasy and science fiction.

At the moment, I’m not going to delete the backlog of random posts, but I’m not going to rule that out as I move forward. I’ll see you each Tuesday and Friday for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for reading.

The Dirty Truth about Blogging

The article below was originally written for the author newsletter at Discovery House, the publishing house where I am employed. Though the audience for the piece was originally published authors, other writers may be interested in it too. So I’m putting it here.

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As a marketing manager, I know what I’m supposed to say about author blogs. I’m supposed to tell you that blogging is a great, easy way to hook new readers and convince them to buy your book. But here’s the dirty truth: Blogging is hard.

It is hard to juggle writing books (which are meant to last forever on someone’s bookshelf) with writing blog posts (which are old as soon as they are published). It is hard to think of a new topic or fresh angle for each post. It is hard to be consistent when the schedules of our non-writing lives refuse to stay the same. Blogging is just hard to do.

Here’s what two Discovery House authors have to say on the topic:

“When I first started blogging, I tried to keep up with devotionals on a semi-deep level every single day. It drained me of words. It’s hard to exactly explain, but I found it hard to even talk/chat in my everyday life because I had spent myself keeping up with the blogging.” –Heather King, author of Ask Me Anything, Lord

“Blogging is draining and sucks what little writing time I have right down the tubes. And it makes me cranky. I think a lot of people are over-blogged. How much information can we really keep up with these days?” –Jessie Clemence, author of If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do

And yet…

Blogging can be rewarding too. After all, hard things are often those most worth doing. Blogging reinforces the habit of writing. It can breed community. It can stimulate creativity. It can tell us what issues hit home with readers.

Per Heather and Jessie:

“Since I blog along the same vein as what I write book-wise, I had to find a balance. I blog 3 times a week now, with the heavier devotionals 2 of those days and that content helps me find thoughts/content/words for the books. I take those blog posts as jumping-off points for book content.

“I also think if I can find the posts that connect with readers in a big way, it helps keep my book-writing more relevant (at least that’s the hope!).” –Heather King, author of Ask Me Anything, Lord

“I keep blogging because it does give me consistent practice at writing. It also keeps the website fresh and then gives people a reason to check in and remember I’m alive. When my posts are shared it can bring in brand new readers, who then see a picture of the latest cover as they peruse.

“It makes me less cranky to think of the blog as a way to connect with readers.” –Jessie Clemence, author of If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do

Blogging is hard, but when approached in a balanced way, it can work with your writing instead of against it. Do you think you might be ready for the challenge?

If so, remember the 3 Rules of Blogging:

  1. Be Consistent – It doesn’t matter whether you post new content every day, three times a week, or twice a month, as long as your readers know when they can expect new content from you (and you can deliver it).
  2. Be Brief (or Epic) – People usually read posts that are 400 words or less. Also, people read posts that are over 1,000 words. Avoid the middle ground. Go for short and sweet or give them a full meal.
  3. Be Yourself – People are coming to your blog to read your writing. Maybe they have read one of your books and care about the same things that you do. Maybe they stumbled onto you blog accidentally. Either way, you have an opportunity to show them that you are a writer worth investing in.

Happy Blogging!

If LOTR Races Were Writers…

I was looking through my old posts for some inspiration. Yesterday, I blogged about some good reasons to give up blogging. I left out a reason.

Most of the time, you write into the void, hoping that one or two people will read your words but knowing that even if they do, they won’t read them again and all of your effort will be wasted.

And so I feel compelled to share some of my favorite past posts. If you are new to my blog, you are welcome to go back and read from the beginning, but I’m going to save you some work and just share the things that I think are worth sharing.

The post below was originally published on January 31, 2013.

* * * * * * * * *

lotr_writers

I am a nerd. I wear this badge proudly. I can speak knowledgeably about Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Lord of the Rings. Yes, I can even talk about the Silmarillion. And so, it should come as no surprise that I think about questions like this:

If each race from Lord of the Rings represented a type of writer,
to which race would I belong?

Of course, before I can answer that question, we need to look at what type of writer each race might represent.

lego_hobbitHobbits

Hobbits are gifted storytellers, lovers of simplicity, and they value a good party as much, or more than, a hard day’s work. As writers, they are often distracted by social engagements, but this makes their writing richer… when they get around to it. Don’t forget that the writer of The Hobbit was a hobbit.

lego_elfElves

Elves are a poetic race with a tongue that is beautiful to listen to, but difficult to understand. They compose epic poems praising high ideals and their knowledge of obscure history is secondary only to the Valar and Maiar themselves. The fact that they do not age and cannot die unless mortally wounded or heartbroken assists them in having a longer perspective than men. As writers, words come easily to them, but their high literature is not accessible and is often shunned by the mainstream. That is okay with them, as they would rather their Rivendells be hidden away from average eyes anyway.

Dwarveslego_dwarf

Dwarves are fans of action and gold. They carve stories out of the living stone of imagination, crafting complex structures that impress all who see them. They are concerned with the details and how elements fit together. Dwarves are a serious race, not grim, but focused. Every now and again though, they dig too greedily and awaken things best left asleep. As writers, they are know how tell a good, axe-wielding fight scene and have great attention to detail. Their books are often bestsellers and go on to live comfortably on the silver screen as well as they do on the page.

Menlego_man

Of all the races, men are the shortest-lived. In other words, men are entirely forgettable. Their end is a mystery, for they neither dwell in the Halls of Mandos like elves, nor return to the earth from which they sprang forth like dwarves. Being short-lived, men are often also short-sighted. As writers, men do not use outlines and often have no idea where their story will end. They simply write to see where the journey to take them.

Pukel-menlego_pukelman

Don’t remember the pukel-men? They weren’t in the movie version of LOTR, so if that is your only reference point, you won’t have any idea who I’m talking about. Technically speaking, the Pukel-men, or Drúedain,  are counted among the first men who walked on Middle-earth. They resembled Neanderthals, were friendly with Elves of the first age, and hate orcs with a passion. They are a secretive race and wish to be left in peace. In the war of the One Ring, their leader, Ghân-buri-Ghân, played a vital role, guiding the Rohirrim to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. If that hadn’t happened, the war against Sauron would have been lost. As writers, the Pukel-men are ultra-niche, keeping to themselves, wanting no influence in the outside literary world.

Entslego_ent

Ents are a long-winded race. It takes hours to finish a sentence, days to finish a paragraph, and many seasons to tell a whole story. Though they speak slowly, they say the things that must be said. And once they get into a groove, nothing can get them off course. As writers, they are not hasty. They write slowly and thoughtfully, but their stories are always worth reading. I believe Tolkien himself had a bit of Entish blood (sap?) running through his veins, as it took him about twelve years to write LOTR.

Wizardslego_wizard

Strictly speaking, wizards aren’t writers at all, but editors. These are the wise folk who know the land, can see the needs of the time, and offer guidance to those wise enough to listen. They speak all languages and give of themselves freely for the good of the quest.

Now, I realize that these are only the main races of LOTR and that I haven’t covered any of the bad guys. Maybe I’ll do that in another post. In any case, now that I’ve laid out the races and the types of writers they represent, I must admit that I am a hobbit. I am often distracted by the happenings within my life and find it difficult to simply sit and write for hours on end. lego_gollumThough, perhaps that is for the best. Were I to become too focused on something, I may turn into another race altogether, referring to my writing as “precious” and viciously attacking anyone who came between it and I.

No, I think I am happy as a hobbit, but even more so because I am surrounded by a fellowship made up of each race. I value my writers group, the Weaklings, and know that if my quest to become a published author is to be realized, I must draw from the strengths of my companions.

What are you?

Icebreaker #15 | What was your favorite subject in school?

This is the fifteenth and final installment of my Icebreaker series. Find your backpack and cram your Trapper Keeper inside!

What was your favorite subject in school?

Here I am with hair and trombones. I still have those trombones. The hair, not so much.

Here I am with hair and trombones. I still have those trombones. The hair, not so much.

You may already know that I was king of the band geeks in high school. It would stand to reason that music classes would have been my favorite. And I think if I were to answer this question in high school, I would have agreed.

Looking back now though, I think my favorite subject in high school was English, specifically AP Literature and AP Composition. And it turns out, those are the subjects that have impacted me most.

I mean, I worked for a bookstore for ten years because I love books. I write daily on this blog of mine. I have aspirations of being published in a variety of forms. And I work for a publisher, albeit in the marketing department.

You know the last time I played my trombone? Me neither. Now, I don’t regret taking any of the music classes that I took, and at one time I considered becoming a band teacher (but let’s be honest—I’m glad that I don’t have to listen to junior high or high school students learn how to play the clarinet).

My favorite subject is still related to reading and writing.

How about you? What is yours?

I am prolific.

typewriter_prolific

Twice this past week, I’ve heard the same question from writers I know:

“Josh, would you please stop plagiarizing my writing?”

Just kidding. That wasn’t the question. At least, it isn’t the one I’m going to talk about in today’s blog. The real question is this:

“Josh, how do you blog so much? I would run out of things to say.”

Let’s be honest, if you’ve been reading my blog consistently, you’ll know that most of it is drivel and I don’t have all that much to say. But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I’m saying worthwhile things (at least some of time). How do I find something to talk about nearly everyday?

I cheat. That’s right, I cheat. And the best part about it is that I’m doing it using rules. I say this because I’ve set up my blog to run along a certain format. If you are a writer looking to post consistently to your blog, I’d suggest that you do the same thing.

Here are my rules:

Monday – “I am” post. What have I done this past week? What is a label that could apply to me? What story from my past could I start with the phrase “I am”?

Tuesday – Free day. I can talk about whatever comes to mind. A few of the recent categories of posts include flash fiction stories, book reviews, my job, a response to some interesting link that I find online, meta-blogging, word origins, and current events. My blog doesn’t follow a specific focus (like the experts will tell you it should (and they are probably right)), so I have the freedom to write as though in a journal and share things that I find interesting.

Wednesday – Multiple series post. Lately, I’ve been working through 15 Icebreaker Questions. Those questions are going to give me 16 weeks of posts where I know exactly what I’m going to write about. It’ll be 17 if I do a retrospective post at the end. Series of posts are nice because you’ll know what to expect from yourself.

Thursday – Another free day. See Tuesday’s rule.

Friday – Links post. Surf the web, find some places worth sharing, share them. Boom!

Saturday – Lego prompt post. When I have time to take a picture, I’ll set up a scene with my Lego figurines and take a picture. Now it is up to other writers to make something of the photo. This encourages interaction on my blog and hopefully saves someone the pain of having to come up with an idea for their own post.

Am I suggesting that you follow the rules that I’ve set up for myself? No. Make your own rules. If you want to focus your blog posts (which you probably should), then develop rules that relate to your focus. If this were a gardening blog, I’d probably want to follow something like this schedule: Monday – Plant feature, Tuesday – Gardening tip, Wednesday – Gardening book review, Thursday – How to use a specific plant in cooking, Friday – Garden pictures (inviting readers to send in pictures of their own gardens), and every now and again, I’d throw in a guest post from some gardening friend or expert.

If you think you’d run out of things to blog about, you probably won’t. I haven’t yet. Will it take more time than you want to give it? Probably, but that’s a different question, isn’t it. (Look, I just found the topic for another blog post for another day!)

Happy blogging fellow writers!

 

P.S. Happy Birthday to my big brother, Bob! I don’t know if you still read this drivel, Bob, but I hope you have a great day either way.