The Viking Secret Diaries: Rites of Passage

with apologies to Cassandra Clare and Michael Hirst

The Diary of Ragnar Lothbrok

Day 1

Survived battle. Destroyed all my enemies singlehanded. Lost sword plunging it into opponent’s sternum.  Damn. Was favorite sword.

Day 2

Taught Bjorn how to use sword and shield. Planning to take him to the Thing tomorrow. Lagertha says he’s too young. If she had her way he’d still be in diapers. Women.

Day 4

Rollo failed to see the genius in my plan to sail west. I’ll show him. I’ll show them all.

Day 6

This kid. I don’t even know. First he doesn’t vote for beheading, then he didn’t want to throw apples at the guilty. Have a bad feeling he’s going to cause trouble one of these days. Still, he got his arm ring from the Earl and his kiss from Siggy. He is a man now. And getting more action than I’m going to see. Dammit, why did I promise Lagertha?

Oh, yeah. She’ll cut my balls off if I try anything.

Day 7

The Seer said we should sail west so I’m taking Bjorn to see Floki. Wonder how to explain that Floki is a pervy tree-fancier…

…no, wait, that tree-groping did a pretty good job of it for me. Thanks, Floki.

Day 8

Rollo showed up just in time for dinner. Going to rope him into sailing west with me and Floki.

Day 9

I’m sailing.  I’M SAILING!

Still not Earl.

The Diary of Rollo

Day 1

Survived battle. Ragnar claims he destroyed his enemies singlehanded. That braggart wouldn’t have survived five minutes without my help.

Day 4

Nephew Bjorn old enough to go drinking and whoring now. Score. I needed a new wingman.

Dear brother Ragnar is on about sailing west on the open ocean. Something about a wooden wheel with a pin in it and a magic rock. Whatever he’s been smoking, I want some.

Day 6

I gotta hand it to Ragnar, he isn’t afraid to start shit with the Earl. Even if he still thinks we should sail west.

Day 8

Lagertha’s got a bug up her ass just because I said she used to be a shield maiden. I haven’t seen her use a shield lately so what’s the big deal? She didn’t seem impressed with tales of my conquests in town, either. Why won’t she let me show her how I handle my sword?

The Diary of Earl Haraldson

Day 6

I love a good beheading. Fuck that guy and his ZZ Top beard.

Fuck Ragnar too, with his newfangled ideas about sailing west. My ships, my raid, my decision. I am the Earl… this can’t possibly go wrong.

The Diary of Lagertha Lothbrok

Day 2

Ragnar gets to go out and destroy his enemies while I am stuck stabbing eels for dinner. Came home to find him preparing Bjorn to pledge loyalty to the Earl. Bjorn too young but my dear husband insists. Men.

Politely asked Ragnar not to screw any other women while he’s in Kattegat. He agreed. He knows I’d cut his balls off if he tried anything.

Day 3

Was teaching Gyda how to weave when two assholes showed up at my door looking to get laid. I beat, burned and stabbed them, then threw them out the door.  I’ve got skills they’ve never seen.

Day 8

Ragnar’s back. Finally got laid. Totally not telling him I kicked two guys’ asses while he was off drinking with Rollo.

Why is it every time Ragnar leaves, some scumbag tries to put the moves on me? I mean, I know I’ve got it going on, but really? My pig of a brother-in-law? Please. I have standards.

Unspooling Fiction: Grimm

Today I’m honored to have my guest essay, “Remember Who You Are: Identity and Free Will on Grimm”,  featured on Unspooling Fiction.  And while you’re over there checking it out, be sure to take a look at what the Chandler/Hammett team has to say, they’re sharp ladies.

The Five Stages of Spec Pilot Writing

  1. YAY! New idea! *gazes raptly at shiny new idea*
  2. SHIT! This is exactly like [series that lasted four episodes] + [movie that tanked] x [pilot a more powerful writer than you’ll ever be couldn’t get made] ÷ [webseries that parodies your serious topic]
  3. Hmmm, what if I did THIS instead of THAT?
  4. GAAAAAHHHH IDEA FLOOD SOMEBODY SHUT IT OFF SHUT IT OFF NOW HELP! *sputter choke splash*
  5. Well, shit. Guess I have to write it now, don’t I. *retreats into writing cave*

[Steps 6-infinity: Write ten pages in thirty minutes. Tear hair, gnash teeth, rend garments. Pull all-nighter to finish. Do a victory dance. Send draft out for feedback. Revise. Rinse, lather, repeat.]

The Audacity of “Nope”

Not something you say every day.

We writers hear the word “No” a lot.  Sure, sometimes it’s dressed up in fancy clothes, like “They decided to go in another direction” or “The position has been filled” or “I’m sorry, we’re all out of Venti cups”… but it’s always there.  And, as writers, we’re expected to accept it.  But we’re not often expected to say it.  In fact, we’re expected to be agreeable almost to a fault.  Say yes to everything: Yes to working on spec.  Yes to unpaid revisions.  Yes to even the most boneheaded of notes (while screaming inside our own heads that the note-giver wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them on the ass).  Be “good in a room”.  Pitch solutions, not problems.  Chin up, try again, pay your dues.  And most of the time, that’s all right.  Better than all right — it’s necessary.  The collaborative spirit, and being easy to work with, is essential for creating art by committee… or at least for not starting a brawl in the room.  None of us really wants to have that on our rap sheet (or on the front page of Deadline).  Choosing your battles is important.  But what happens when you choose the road less travelled?
Note that I’m not advocating a Network– (or Newsroom-) style rant, nor any other bridge-incinerating behavior.  What I’m talking about is checking in with yourself and being honest about what you want – what’s best for you as a person and as a professional.

NOT the recommended approach.

I’ve been a professional script reader ever since I moved to LA, even during the years of Ye Olde Corporate Dayjob.  Saying “No” isn’t just a right, it’s a responsibility.  But passing on sub-par scripts and saying no to an opportunity are completely different things.  We’re all looking for a break, no matter where we are in our careers, and it’s one of the peculiarities of this business that there’s no set path to get to where we’re going.  And it’s tempting to say yes to everything in case it’s the one thing that will make the difference.  But I believe there’s a place for a well-considered “No”, especially when choosing who to listen to.  Consider the source: where is the person offering notes or advice coming from?  Are they considering your priorities or their own?  How similar are their priorities to yours?  Can they speak with authority on whatever the subject at hand happens to be?  When we’re just starting out, it’s easy to get bogged down in a thousand different contradictory messages, or to latch onto the first opportunity that comes our way, and it’s worth examining our short-term needs and long-term goals before jumping in with both feet or taking one person’s advice as gospel.

Not having a single clear-cut path to success can be terrifying, but it can also be liberating. We get to make our own way, and after all, aren’t our instincts – or, in terms of writing, our point of view or “voice” – what we hope to be hired for?  This isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry, so choose your advisors and your battles wisely, and always remember that while being open and flexible is vital, you are the ultimate authority on your own work and your own career.  You always have a choice, and sometimes it’s okay to say no.  Like they say about the numerous passes most of us face… every no is just one step closer to yes.