A Smorgasbord of Nerves

Fenna scrabbled to her feet and kicked the Gunnery Sergeant in the groin. He moaned, she kicked him again in the head, and then, a third time, planting the sole of her size five desert boots in the centre of his chest. She ignored the Gunnery Sergeant and collected her equipment, slipping her arms through the straps of the empty hydration pack, closing her notepad and stuffing it into the cargo pocket of her trousers, before pushing the rubber caps over the ends of the scope and slinging the rifle over her shoulder. The evening chill descended quickly, cooling the sweat on her back. She tugged a buff from her trouser pocket and slipped it over her neck. She took one last look at the Gunnery Sergeant and took a breath. It was time to move.

This is it then, book two in The Greenland Trilogy is less than a month from release, doing well in the pre-sales, and serving up a smorgasbord of nerves – for the author, anyway.

In book two, Fenna is plagued by demons from the past, but, at the same time, she must confront new adversaries like the USMC Gunnery Sergeant, above.

There is plenty of intrigue to offset the action in book two, but, I will admit, it gets a little rough at times, and, in Greenland, anything goes.

Curious? Then, you might be interested to pick up a cheap pre-order of In the Shadow of the Mountain, available from Amazon for kindle books and apps. The paperback will be available to buy on the date of publication: August 1st.

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A Writing Nook and Nuuk

It’s been quiet around here for a little while now, and with good reason. After many years of rented accommodation, Jane and I finally bought a house. We’re moved in, but we’re still moving in, if you know what I mean. This whole settling process is going to take time, and yet, for once, time is what we have, heaps of it. So the cellar can wait, we can navigate around the kitchen, the floors have been sanded and soaped, and the writing room – the writing nook – does not need to be ready today, tomorrow, or even three months from now, just so long as it exists, that’s enough.

During the course of my studies, I researched writing, lived on anecdotes and sage advice from authors. I rejected the concept of choosing a specific time of day and place to write, choosing instead to follow the idea of getting words on the page, whenever and wherever you can. It worked for me, and it still does, which begs the question: why do I even need a writing nook?

I can’t answer that.

But I think it has something to do with knowing that there is a space that I can retreat to, if need be. I have written a lot of words in libraries, hiding in plain sight in the afternoons, at kitchen tables, early in the morning when everyone else is sleeping, and in the armchair, late at night, when the house is still and the dust settling. I don’t need the writing space, but for the first time ever I have one.

It is a space, hardly a nook, but thoughts of Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, invade it as I follow Fenna through part 2 of book 2: In the Shadow of the Mountain. It’s going well, she is surprising – ad-libbing and deviating from the storybeats. After the events in the first half of the book, I need to give her some leeway, and I figure that, by now, she knows what she is doing. I just need to relax, and let her get on with the story, telling it her way, with a few descriptions and comments from me once in a while.

As for now. It’s back to my nook.

Arctic Agents & Aircraft

Without spoiling anything, I feel obliged to report that Fenna’s training is over, and the next part of In the Shadow of the Mountain (Book II in the Greenland Trilogy) is set to begin. It didn’t go as planned for Fenna, but then that is the kind of luck that she has. But this Arctic Agent is set to return to the north and she will be flying in small helicopters again piloted this time by a new character – a female pilot from Greenland.

There are a lot of foreign pilots flying for Air Greenland and for the logistical support companies operating in Greenland. Fenna will be flying with them during her next mission  several times according to the plot.

There is a mine in the Uummannaq region of Greenland, and helicopters flying to and from the mine would often land at the heliport just below our house. Avgas or jet fuel, or whatever it is these things guzzle, has a certain tang, one that instantly reminds you that the windows are open – as if the rotor noise wasn’t a good indication. Smells are just one part of life in Greenland – the more remote the location, the stronger the smell.

As for agents in the Arctic – it turns out that PET (the Danish Police Intelligence Service) have been recruiting. So Fenna’s character is not so far-fetched after all.

Now I have to get back to Fenna and arrange her return to Greenland. I’ll leave you with the photo of a foggy day in Uummannaq, March 2010.

Hurting

I stepped out of the Huey and onto the Uummannaq helipad in August 2006. A newly-baked teacher, fresh out of a Danish Teaching College, and desperate to begin my new life, together with my wife, in the Arctic. At last, after so many years of dreaming of snow, ice, dogs, and whales, I had arrived. I was on “the frontier”, at the very edge of my known world, and ready to tip off and into the unknown. I had lived, dreamed and fed on years of romantic claptrap, and it had brought me to that very moment. Sure, I had dipped my toes in the Arctic as a kennel helper at a sled dog kennel in Alta, Norway. Jane and I had paddled our canoe for a week or so above the Arctic Circle in Sweden. But this was it. The real Arctic.

It was also the first time I had ever really listened to Johnny Cash.

I discovered that the so-called frontier was a real place, with real people going about their lives, not in a time bubble, but in a connected world that was, at times, speeding them too damned fast towards the future, when one foot was lingering in the past.

My pupils were avid music enthusiasts with a greater and more varied vocabulary than my own. In fact, during my time in Greenland, I began to wonder if there were any Greenlanders that couldn’t play the guitar, or aspire to it at the very least. The time-bubble idea burst right along with the idea that we were living on the frontier. Sure, I heard whales swimming beneath the Northern Lights as I fed my sledge dogs on the rocks outside our house, but that was the norm. That and Johnny Cash, Roger Waters and every pop idol you can shake a stick at.

I remember seeing the first cruise ship passengers arrive in Uummannaq. Grey-haired adventurers, many of whom were rich enough to make the journey of a lifetime, but often too frail to wander more than a few hundred metres away from the boat. I watched as a particular group gave out crayons and balloons to the local, younger, kids. One of the kids sent a text on his mobile to tell his friends to hurry up, the tourists had arrived.

Scenes like that woke me up to the reality that was Greenland. The tour companies need the small towns and villages to remain museum pieces, but the kids, their parents, and grandparents, need to keep up with the times, get better and faster Internet services and rates, while still preserving the traditions and passing on the knowledge of their culture.

Which brings me back to Johnny Cash, and to the film Logan. The blend of Cash’s voice (a cover of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails) and a real human interest story wrapped up in a superhero movie, well, I was sold. In a way, there are comparisons to be made. Life is tough in Greenland, the environment, the distances, the challenges in providing services to remote communities, all contribute to a life that requires grit and determination. Not everyone has it. For some, the challenge is far greater than for others, but that determination, across the generations, in spite of everything and because of everything, well, you can see it in the eyes of the kids, their parents, and their grandparents.

It’s Greenland.

Sometimes it hurts.

But when did a little hurt stop anybody?

My character of Konstabel Fenna Brongaard hurts in The Ice Star. So do other characters around her, and some more than others. But wrapped up inside the character of Maratse, the policeman, you’ll find the spirit of Greenland, and I look forward to letting him show just how strong that spirit is in future books.

Curious? The Ice Star is available in paperback and on Kindle or for Kindle apps from Amazon:

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Write … Keep Writing!

I saw a picture of Neil Gaiman today, posted by Tor.com. On Neil’s palm, facing the camera, are the words: “Write. Finish things. Keep writing”.

This would be my writing mantra if I didn’t have one already: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. I think those words came from Hugh Howey, and probably other writers before him. But no matter who says what, there is no greater truth to getting books finished – without the writing, they will never be written.

So, in the course of my marathon, I have set goals. August is the next one. By August, the second book of The Greenland Trilogy will be done, finished, and available. By December, book three will also be done, finished, available. It’s that write, edit, redraft, write some more, edit even more, and repeat that is the recipe for running this particular marathon, and I can see the finish line. It’s just there, a few hundred sleepless nights – and a lot of battered keys – away, in the distance.

Just there.

Beyond the ice.

And I’ll get there too. Fenna’s journey through book two: In the Shadow of the Mountain, is shaping up with threads being pulled and teased in all directions. The side plot(s) are developing along with the main storyline, and some interesting new characters are showing up, while familiar ones are developing – in more than one direction. All in all book two is rocking along, and the deadline is looming.

So, if you’ve got a book inside you, follow Neil’s advice:

Write

Finish things

Keep writing

Fearless Girl!

Since reading the CNN article about Fearless Girl, and then a second article in Adweek, I have really enjoyed seeing the different photos and reactions to this bronze symbol of hope, potential, and power. Yes, I am reminded of why I choose to write strong female lead characters, but more so, I am reminded of strong, inspirational female leaders, and the young women and girls they once were.

Why?

Because one of those strong female leaders I grew up around was my mother. Like Fearless Girl, my mother took on the world and raised me by herself during a time when single mothers were scorned, a time when the man was predominantly right. She took on the world and worked hard to become a leader, a director, and I remember seeing the determination in her eyes shine just as fiercely as Fearless Girl‘s, no matter what bull or bullish male entity came charging toward her.

As a child and a teen I never really understood. As an adult I can better appreciate it, and as a male I can respect it.

In the spirit of Fearless Girl, and the present and future female leaders of the world, I will continue to write strong female characters in my stories, and I look forward to seeing where such adventures take me, and them.

#shemakesadifference

Breaking Bones or Busting Noses?

dscf0888It’s no spoiler – I am building up to a fight scene in book two, and Fenna has to break something. Rather, someone has to break something of Fenna’s and I can’t decide what it should be.

Plot devices can be cruel, but she must break something in order to drive the story and her motivation through to the next set piece scheduled later in the story. A couple of black eyes will also do the trick. Which reminds me of my own, self-inflicted, black eye, gained on the ice.

Greenlandic dogs are taught to react to a sealskin whip; with a crack of the whip on the ice to the left or right of the dogs, a skilled hunter can turn the sledge in the direction he or she wishes the dogs to take. I am not a skilled driver of dogs, but my dogs were wary of the whip even if they only ever saw me use it on myself.

When sledging one day in March I wanted to turn the dogs to the right, so I cracked the whip on the ice to the left of the dogs. In my head I had imagined a smooth Indiana Jones-like action, what I achieved was a satisfying crack and a flash of searing pain as the tip struck my cheek beneath my eye. I was millimetres from removing it.

The dogs pulled to the right out of sympathy, the kids at school were less forgiving.

“What have you done this time?” they asked, and, “Maybe you should stop?”

I couldn’t stop, I had a team of dogs to train. But while the lessons learned on the ice were painful and embarrassing, the environment was unforgiving.