Participating in NaNoWriMo-National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo 2020 Writer

This year I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, throughout the month of November. It’s a yearly writing event where writers challenge themselves to reach fifty-thousand (50,000) words by the end of the thirty days, or a little more than the length of a novella. If you’re a writer, you’ve no doubt heard about it or participated yourself.

The novel I’m starting for NaNoWriMo will have dark fantasy and horror elements, set in a small country which shouldn’t require the extensive world-building elements necessary for a larger fantasy world. World-building is one of my favorite things about writing, but I tend to get mired down in smaller details at times. This story doesn’t require knowledge of anything outside the main setting, allowing me to keep world-building to a minimum and focus solely on the plot and characters.

I’m excited to get started on this new project and am looking forward to producing something fun and exciting. I hope to share more about it as I move along.

If you’re a writer participating in NaNo this year, good luck! Let me know what you’re working on in the comments below. Or say hi on the NaNo website here.

Creativity Breeds Creativity-Finding Inspiration

Creativity breeds creativity. It’s a phrase I’ve always agreed with; however, I never thought finding inspiration would be much of a problem.

Recently, I wrote and submitted a short story to multiple publications that, if accepted, will be my first published piece of creative work. It’s a Historical Fantasy about a Viking trader who discovers giants exist in the heart of a new land. The idea for the short came from a simple concept: reading.

In August, I finished a massive project of migrating software and a large amount of data (my career is in Information Technology), the result of more than a year of planning, testing and coordination with third-parties. I was working sixty to seventy-hour weeks, with an eighty-hour week thrown in during the week of the migration. It didn’t leave a lot of time for writing.

I struggled to come up with an idea for a short story or new project. Anything to write something fresh. With my motivation sapped and the creative spark seemingly lost, I did what many writers do when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. We read more.

I’m always reading something, but I made an effort to read new authors and different genres. I read more short stories, or pieces of flash fiction in journals or on websites. I jumped into the first of the Game of Thrones novels, keeping myself grounded in the Fantasy niche. I read anything I could in the hopes of finding something to give me a little inspiration.

Then one day it happened.

While I can’t pinpoint any particular piece pulling me out of the slump, I knew I had something worth writing. The characters and setting were things I’m very familiar with and should have no trouble writing about: Vikings and Norse Mythology. So, why did it take me so long to conceive a story revolving around these topics? Simple. My mind was elsewhere.

Stress, whether caused by work, family, health, or personal matters can and will hamper creativity. It affects how you think or react to different situations. Your thoughts turn to finding solutions to the problem(s), which requires a different kind of thinking. We prioritize, and place our passions on the back-burner in fear of losing what we’ve worked so hard to achieve; things such as a career, raising a family, or continuing education. It’s enough to make someone ‘call it quits’, believing they’ll never have the time or energy to devote to the craft.

Through reading, we get to explore new worlds, get into the minds of compelling characters, or learn about alien civilizations. We get lost in these stories as an escape from reality and can open the mind to a myriad of possibilities. The worry and negative thoughts begin to subside, allowing our brains to spend more energy on creativity, fueling our passion. We ponder the ‘what ifs’, and every once in a while an answer comes in the form of a new story.

It could be something as simple as a well-written paragraph, or a specific scene that evokes an emotion within you.  Perhaps an image so intriguing you wonder what sort of people or creatures live there. Whatever the case may be, the important thing to remember is to keep reading, or doing whatever it is you might do to find inspiration, such as an artist visiting a gallery, or a musician attending a concert. Even something as simple as a walk in the park can be an inspiration, reminding you of the inherent beauty in nature.

In my case, finding this little bit of inspiration led me to write a short story I’m proud of and excited to share (when I’m able). More importantly, writing the piece inspired another story, and yet another, giving me enough ideas to keep those creative juices flowing for a little while longer. Creativity breeds creativity, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Where do you go to find inspiration? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yggdrasil, the World Tree

Yggdrasil (pronounced ‘IGG-dra-sill’) is the name of the magnificent ash tree connecting the nine worlds of the cosmos together in Norse mythology, often referred to as a ‘World Tree’. Yggdrasil’s massive trunk rises out of the geographical center of the universe from three enormous roots digging deep into the underworld with wide branches stretching out over the heavens. These roots and branches hold worlds such as Asgard in the heavens or Hel in the underworld together. The well-being of the universe depends on Yggdrasil and when it trembles signaling the arrival of Ragnarök, it is destined to bring the cosmos crashing down into the sea when it dies. The Aesir, the primary pantheon of Nordic gods, would assemble at the base of it every day and considered it sacred.

The World Tree
A depiction of Yggdrasil.

The Celtic World Tree is known as The Tree of Life, which many believed to be an enormous oak. The root of the tree was thought to be a doorway into realm of the Fae Folk, or the Otherworld, making it possible to travel between the two. In fact, the Celtic word for oak is ‘daur’, which is the origin of the word ‘door.’ Trees were sacred to the Celts and their varied tribal cultures reflected this, with druids acting as priests, teachers, bards and judges.

While the species of tree may vary between cultures, surviving descriptions of it were eerily similar. The roots penetrated deep into the underworld while the branches stretched across the heavens covering the cosmos. Each believed the ancient tree contained the wisdom of the ages and possessed mystical powers able to bestow blessings upon the people. Several communities kept a sacred tree at the center of their village or place of worship with the practice being particularly common among the Celts.

The concept of a World Tree, a massive life-giving tree at the center of the universe, is a common motif throughout many different religions, but despite varying interpretations the role of the tree remains the same. In almost every instance the tree is a manifestation of the elements of nature (earth, air, fire, and water) coming together in perfect harmony to maintain the balance necessary to sustain life. The Celtic portrayal of the Tree of Life is, in my opinion, the perfect representation of this balance and alongside the Norse concept of Yggdrasil, inspired much of the world-building behind my stories.

According to Norse mythology Midgardr (“middle enclosure”), or Midgard to English speakers, is the realm where mortals live. Although invisible to humans Yggdrasil intersects the physical world, holding it in its proper place among the other worlds. In the universe I’ve created Yggdrasil also grows at the center of the realm of Midgardr however the humans in my stories live in another realm. My depiction of Midgard has similarities with the Otherworld of Celtic myth such as Annwn in Welsh mythology or Tír na nÓg in Irish mythology (also called Mag Mell or Emain Ablach among other names).

Brigid Celtic Goddess
Brigid, Celtic goddess of Spring.

In the beginning of this universe, which I call Antumnos (“other world” in ancient Gaulish), Yggdrasil grows tall forming the realm of Midgardr around its roots, and creating a balance between the physical elements, allowing life to flourish.

The manifestation of this Balance is the earth goddess Gaea who creates the world of Ollon for mortals. Gaea gives birth to mankind through two children, a daughter named Nema and a son named Ahlmenn. They are the first humans from which the race of Menn are born. The tribes formed of their descendants paid homage to both children and their mother, learning of Yggdrasil from their teachings and passing it on through the generations. A culture formed around these druidic teachings, building the backbone of a people known as the Gaelesians whose influence can be seen throughout the history of Ollon.

I hope this brief blurb offers a glimpse into the setting of my stories and illustrates how I’ve used Yggdrasil to maintain a central role in creating life and maintaining balance in the universe. If you’re interested in reading more check back from time to time. I hope to write additional posts about the lore and history behind the world of Ollon as time permits.

To Blog or Not to Blog

This is my first post on the blog, which I’ll be using to provide updates on Descendant (and other novels eventually), provide background and lore about the setting, and perhaps a few short stories too. I may also post writing samples, poems or other ‘writerly’ things! Stay tuned.