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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

You know that feeling you get when you're about to do something permanent? You think, "This is it. There's no going back now." And then a thousand last minute questions run through your mind so fast you're left spinning in confused circles. I just had that moment.

I've officially signed and returned my first ever novel contract, and I'm not going to lie to you about it. It was terrifying and exhilarating (and a thousand other things) at once.

I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm still wrapping my mind around the fact that I sent out my first query letter only four and a half months ago.

It's a lot to process.

I have to say that, despite the last minute worry overload, I am absolutely thrilled to have been offered the opportunity. More than that, I am so blessed to have had so many of you in my corner through this entire process. You are each a blessing to me and have been some of the most amazing critique partners, "send" button pushers, hand-holders, butt-kickers, shouty-caps text deliverers, relentless phone call hounders, and friends a girl could ask for. :)

And now *deep breath* it's on to the next phase of this journey!

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of Wolves, Men and Mythology

Virgil's Aeneid, Homer's Iliad, the Enûma Eliš (Seven Tablets of Creation), the Tao Te Ching... these mythological (or religious) texts have been a source of fascination for me for a very long time, so it seems fitting that my first post here be about that very subject: mythology.

Virgil's Aeneid is the first story I remember hearing as a kid. I don't know who read it to me, or even how old I was, but I can remember being fascinated by the world Virgil had created. I didn't know then, of course, that so much of what he recounted in his epic poem was directly related to Greco-Roman mythology, but I was suitably impressed with the tangled web of words and how they all fit together. Some I understood, some I'm not so sure I understand yet, but I think it's safe to say that it started what’s become a bit of a life-long adoration for me.

In high school, I was given the opportunity to take a course on ancient texts and mythology and discovered an entirely new set of myths and legends from around the world. The two that immediately grabbed my attention were the Norse Eddas (the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda), which recounted the skaldic traditions of Iceland and Norse mythology as the modern world knows it.

Those familiar with the Eddas no doubt know that they were written sometime in the 13th century (1200 BCE), and recount northern mythology from creation to the destruction of the Gods (Ragnarök) and beyond. In the myths as told in the Eddas, Odin and his offspring (the Aesir) are given reason to fear Fenrir (the monstrous son of Loki and the giantess Angrboda, born in secret), who has grown so large and fearsome as to threaten the might of the Aesir. As a result, Odin and the Gods trick Fenrir into Gleipnir, a magical ribbon meant to bind him and render him harmless.

Fenrir, who suspects trickery on the part of the Gods, agrees to test his strength against the suspect ribbon on the condition that one of the Aesir places his or her arm in Fenrir’s mouth as a show of good faith. Tyr (one of Odin’s sons) willingly agrees to do so knowing it’s the only way they will ever be able to contain Fenrir. When Fenrir realizes that he cannot escape from the magical bond placed around his neck, he bites off Tyr’s arm and swears vengeance upon the Gods. The Gods then drag Fenrir into the depths of the earth and chain him to a rock (Gioll).

There, the Eddas recount, Fenrir will remain until his bonds are broken and he is freed to seek his revenge upon the Aesir for their trickery. His release, according to the Eddas, will be assured when his sons, the wolves Sköll and Hati, catch the sun and moon and devour them. At that point, the magic of Gleipnir will shatter and Fenrir will kill Odin, pitting brother against brother, and causing the world to die in fire and ice.

Fenrir, Sköll and Hati are not the only wolves of Norse mythology. According to all accounts, Odin has two wolves, Geri and Freki, that he loves above all others. These are, according to Norse mythology, the first real wolves ever created (as opposed to the monsters Sköll and Hati, who are the offspring of a Fenrir and a witch) and they serve Odin and humanity faithfully, even teaching humans how to love and care for one another at the request of Odin. These aren’t ordinary wolves by any means though. Myth tells that Geri and Freki are mythical beings, able to change form at will.

And from them springs the legend of the Berserkers, or the bravest of Norse warriors who, in a fit of blood lust during battle, were able to change into wolf form to fight alongside their brethren. The Berserker legend (or shapeshifting) is one that has been recounted in various forms throughout many different cultures and link wolves to men as securely as Geri and Freki were linked to Odin.

Despite the strong relationship between man and wolf in Norse mythology and in other myths from various cultures and time periods, the actual relationship between man and wolf has been more along the lines of Fenrir and Odin's relationship than of the inspiring bond between Odin and his companions, with wolves being viewed as a predator to fear by man. In fact, wolves have been hunted to near extinction in the continental United States and elsewhere in the world, resulting in the gray wolf being added to, and then facing removal from, the Endangered Species list twice in recent years in the United States.

And that brings us to Fade

I began writing Fade nearly four years ago after taking an undergraduate course that required us to reach out to our representatives in Congress on an environmental issue of our choice. I chose the plight of the gray wolf after having talked to a friend that was very involved in the fight to keep the wolf on the Endangered Species list in her home state. The more I learned about wolves, and the more I kept coming back to mythology, the more the story began to grow in my mind.

When I was introduced to the story of a family that had lived alongside wolves and come to view them as family, I was absolutely certain that I not only wanted to include the mythological side of things, but that I wanted to include aspects of the debate that had become so familiar during the course of the assignment. The people that fight for and love wolves, and those that are terrified of and hunt them both often had incredibly compelling reasons for their stance on the issue, many of which were rooted as deeply in mythology and legend as wolves themselves.

By the time my letter was written to Rep. Snyder, Fade had begun to take shape and I had begun writing. I finished the first full draft of the story two years ago and set it aside to take on other writing projects that had been tickling at the back of my mind; each, ironically enough, about issues that had become as important to me as the plight of the gray wolf. Fade never left my mind though, and I picked it up frequently to reread, revise and expand.

I’ve written four full novels and numerous smaller pieces in the last two years, but it’s always been Fade and the wolves that has kept my attention as fully as mythology has over the years. I’m excited that it’s not only finished, but has recently been offered a contract, and I cannot wait to share my favorite fictional world, and my favorite animal (shapeshifter or actual) with all of you in the months ahead.