research

Iceland: Volcanoes and Glaciers

In early September 2019, I visited southern Iceland for a week. As part of my research into Viking Age history, the legends and mythology, landscape has been important in shaping Icelandic legends. I was fortunate enough to see some of archaeological and cultural history of National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik, ride Icelandic horses, visit several iconic waterfalls and tour the some of the unique Icelandic landscape.


Southern Iceland boasts stunning waterfalls, glaciers and volcanoes. The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull is located within Vatnajökull National Park which contains the largest and most active volcanoes in Iceland. On the southern side of Vatnajökull, the glacier completely covers the volcano beneath. Known as Öræfajökull, the glacier enveloping the volcano is also the highest peak in Iceland with the mountain peak, Hvannadalshnúkur reaching 2, 000 m above sea level. Although peaks in Iceland are not high but European standards, the entirety of the huge glacier Vatnajökull, envelops several active volcanoes. The size of Vatnajökull is impressive with the Ring Road skirting the edge of the glacier along the coastline from just east of Vik and continuing past Hof which was the furthest extent of our tour.

A closer view of a southern outlet glacier of Vatnajökull and the tallest peak Hvannadalshnúkur visible on the left with the glacier spreading across the flatter meadows below the mountain ridges.
The path of the outlet glacier from Vatnajökull as it spreads across the landscape below, an impressive thick wall of glacier.
A clear image of the passage of the glacier has carved through the mountain ridge with the peak of Hvannadalshnúkur obscured by low cloud in the background.
A smaller, glacial outlet carves a path through the basalt rock, the slow progression of the glacier and force required for the rock to be worn down or moved over time is incredibly impressive.

Myrdalsjokull, is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland and located further west toward Reykjavik than Vatnajökull but the outlet glacier, Sólheimajökull is popular for glacier walks and all-year tours with frequent monitoring of the nearby active Katla volcano located beneath the distant ice cap of Myrdalsjokull. The outlet glacier Sólheimajökull is easily accessible via sign-posted valley entrances off the main the Ring Road along the southern coastline with a 20 minute hike to a glacial lagoon.

The 20 minute hike to the Sólheimajökull glacier includes traversing the edge of the lagoon formed by glacial melt. Each year the size of the lagoon increases with warmer global weather influencing the temperature and extent of thawing and glacial melt each year. In Iceland, the constant volcanic activity means that the glaciers are often streaked or covered in volcanic ash and these are known as “dirty glaciers” due to their black streaked appearance from frequent volcanic eruptions. The lagoon is also formed from volcanic sand and large pinnacles of volcanic ash are common on the glacier surface.

Sólheimajökull glacier where it meets the lagoon is visibly streaked with volcanic ash revealing the older glacier layers of pale blue beneath.
A closer example of the height of the glacier itself as we hiked across the front edge and the volcanic ash that covers the surface of the glacier.
An example of a large cavernous opening in the glacier used by experienced climbers for tours. A large mound of volcanic ash is obvious in the foreground.
A narrow crevices visible while walking across the glacier surface also shows how freely melt water flows through the glacier and the entire structure is constantly changing form.
This stretch of the Myrdalsjokull continues another 22km toward the pole. In the near distance, a large pinnacle of volcanic ash with the uneven glacial surface covered in ash typical of the “dirty” glaciers.
The expanse of the glacier continues toward the basalt mountain ridges but the passage the glacier has carved through the surrounding rock is impressive.
A good view of the observable layers in the glacier with the alternating ash deposits and glacial layers
Contrast between the surrounding mountain ridges of the valley and the glacier outlet as it progresses through the landscape
The surrounding mountain ridges have numerous waterfalls which empty into the outlet glacier, the larger expanse of Myrdalsjokull also extends across many of the surrounding mountains behind where we were hiking
View from the surface of Sólheimajökull glacier tracing a narrow crevices extending back toward the ice cap of Myrdalsjokull
As we headed back from the hike, it began to rain. The rain began to quickly melt the glacier carving these flowing tunnels into the surface of the ice we were walking across.

The final view looking back to Myrdalsjokull as the weather closed around the glacier and lagoon, rain and light snow obscuring much of the way back we had come.

A short video on Solheimjoskull glacier showIng some of the surrounding landscape filmed despite the incredible strength of the erratic wind across the glacier threatening to knock me down if not for the crampons holding fast in the ice.

Writing

Bone Arrow: Important Update

In the coming months, I’ll be doing a significant edit on my historical fantasy Bone Arrow which was inspired by Amerindian prehistory and fables. All previous editions of Bone Arrow will no longer be available. I’ll be sharing my latest research and editing developments as the new edition of Bone Arrow progresses.

Writing

Ragnarok Dreaming: A First Draft!


It’s been over 12 months of writing but the first draft of Ragnarok Dreaming is finally finished. Inspired by Norse mythology, I read and studied the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, many retellings and interpretations of the Norse myths and sagas, studied the archaeological record of prehistoric Scandinavia and history of the Viking Age. In September 2019, I was lucky enough to travel to Sweden and Iceland for some research and to see the landscapes that influenced Norse mythology and Viking cultures. I intend to take a break from Norse mythology before the editing on this first draft (a huge manuscript of 132,000 words!) can begin. You can always keep updated on my writing and research by following this blog!

Writing

Latest: Ragnarok Dreaming

I am very pleased to announce my current work-in-progress fantasy novel, Ragnarok Dreaming is very nearing the finishing line. I have just finished writing the third Part of the novel, the draft has already expanded beyond my anticipated length with the new word count expected to be around 130,000 words. Of course, there’s a lot editing to do on later drafts yet! I‘m ready to begin writing Part 4 in the coming week and can’t wait to finish this incredible writing journey that has taken me literally from Australia to Iceland. Keep watch for more updates as the final pieces of this story fall into place!

research, Writing

Loki and Angrboda

A few weeks ago, I finished writing a series of scenes for my work-in-progress Ragnarok Dreaming inspired by events described in the Norse Prose Edda and Poetic Edda. These involve the mysterious character of Angrboda, the “Hag of the Ironwood” who dwells in jotunheim, is alluded to as a witch and mother of many werewolves that hunt the ironwood. It is this horned witch, dwelling in the isolated woods that Loki has an adulterous affair and provides the three offspring who play central roles in the final battle of Ragnarok and the collapse of the Nine Worlds. The giantess Angrboda, who is barely mentioned in either the Prose or Poetic Eddas, is the mother the monstrous Wolf Frenrir, the Midgard Serpent Jormungand, and the unusual half-living, half-corpse ruler of Helheim, the indomitable Hel.
In my own re-imagining of this crucial series of scenes, I needed to decide if Loki was a willing participant in Angrboda’s affair, or if she were the powerful witch alluded to in the Prose and Poetic Eddas that was a deceiver with her own motivations. In the end, I decided Loki’s strange affair with Angrboda was the result of her own machinations and revenge against Odin and Loki caught in another’s schemes for a change. I am now moving closer to the final chapters in Part Three in Ragnarok Dreaming and the events immediately proceeding Ragnarok.

research, Writing

Virtual Plotting & Planning


I’ve been investigating new ways to develop my world-building for my novel-in-progress Ragnarok Dreaming, inspired by Norse mythology. I am a highly visual person and my imagination (and writing) has become increasingly taxed by trying to remember my mental images and plans for complex landscapes, cities and worlds in my latest work-in-progress. I was keen to try new ways to visualise my scenes and my characters. I have been writing my draft for Ragnarok Dreaming using Scrivener which is a wonderful software for organising and planning large and small writing endeavours but I wanted something more to visualize world-building.
Enter World Anvil, designed with game builders and role players in mind, it is fantastic for writers and artists alike, including specific features and packages just for creative writers. Then there is FlowScape for map-making and up-close and personal, scene investigation. A wonderful virtual 3D designer for everything from large world maps to smaller regional sections.
I hope you are as excited as I am to see the final outcome of this combined venture using FlowScape and World Anvil to bring the world-building for my novel-in-progress Ragnarok Dreaming to life!


Here’s a quick look at the virtual reality ‘map in progress’ for Midgard.

Writing

NaNoWriMo 2019

I am participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). After completing my first NaNoWriMo last year, I found it was a great motivational tool. This year, my goal is to write 30 thousand words and, from October to December, I plan to finish my novel-in-progress Ragnarok Dreaming. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or using the Social page on my website to stay updated on my progress. Wish me luck!

Writing

Loki & Idunn

I have been working hard writing a large scene over several chapters in my novel-in-progress, Ragnarok Dreaming. The scene is based on a significant section in Norse mythology recorded in The Prose Edda, called the Skaldskaparmal, where Loki is portrayed for the first time as a more malicious being. The Skaldskaparmal describes Loki’s deliberate deception of the most innocent among the gods, Idunn who is also the guardian of immortality for the Aesir. In return for his own life, Loki promises Idunn to the mightiest of the frost giants, Thrazi. When Loki deceives Idunn into following him beyond the protective lands of the Aesir, she is kidnapped by Thrazi and held as his prisoner. Although Loki’s guilt is evident, his concern grows as the Aesir begin to age rapidly without Idunn tending the tree that provides the apples and their immortality. Odin has Loki beaten for his betrayal which has the desired effect to spur Loki’s conscience. He finally agrees to helps rescue Idunn from Thrazi‘s wintry mountain fortress. In truth, the Aesir are too weakened and aged to assault the mountain fortress, Thyrheim. Loki rescues Idunn and lures Thrazi back toward Asgard where Odin and Thor have built a bonfire. In the form of a hawk, Loki easily evades Thrazi’s eagle-form but Thrazi is caught by the flames and destroyed.Loki retains some of his humanity in the Skaldskaparmal but from now on, his considerations of the Aesir are complicated, alternating more swiftly from bitter dislike to a sense of familial belonging. Loki is neither Aesir nor truly of the jotnar but is caught somewhere in-between.

In my work-in-progress, Ragnarok Dreaming, I explore Loki’s conflict where he belongs to neither the giants nor the gods; a conscious and unconscious character motivation.

Writing

Ragnarok Dreaming: Characters

During the writing my latest Fantasy novel-in-progress, Ragnarok Dreaming, I created character collages for the central characters. These are useful visual aids representing important character aspects and themes. Ragnarok Dreaming is inspired by Norse myths and incorporates aspects of Australian legends.


Loki: The shape-shifting trickster from Norse mythology, Loki is a giant from Muspelheim but bound like a brother to the god Odin, leader of the Aesir. In Ragnarok Dreaming, Loki is rescued from Ginnungagap, a timeless void, waking in female form in an Australian dreamscape of legendary beings


Odin: The god Odin is well known in any mythological inspired Fantasy novel, but in Ragnarok Dreaming, Odin plays the role of the cautious leader, always trying to prevent catastrophe and maintain the balance of order above chaos.


The Norns: the Norns are three central female figures in Norse mythology but neither gods nor giants. The norns tend Yggdrasil and maintain balance in the nine realms. In Ragnarok Dreaming, Loki suspects the norns were responsible for exiling him in the Ginnungagap.


Wahn: Although not a continuing main character through the entire novel, Wahn is inspired by the indigenous Australian legends of the Crow, a Trickster god who acts to preserve those he favours but always through own motivations. In Ragnarok Dreaming, Loki encounters Wahn whole memory returns and self-identity, shaping how Loki will react to later events in the novel.


Freya: The Vanir goddess Freya is a Vanir goddess who dwells close to the lands of Odin and other Aesir gods. Unlike the Aesir, Freya is associated with natural elements but is also the leader of the Valkyries, claiming a portion of the dead who are not favoured by Odin to form her own host of warriors. In Ragnarok Dreaming, Freya is openly hostile toward Loki and controls much more magical power than she allows Odin or the Aesir to understand. In Ragnarok Dreaming, Loki suspects Freya of scheming to undermine the Aesir.


Anjea: Although appearing only in the beginning of Ragnarok Dreaming, Anjea is inspired by the figure from some indigenous Australian legends, a being who gives life and physical form crafted from the earth. In Ragnarok Dreaming, Anjea is the responsible for finding Loki’s lost spirit amid the void of Ginnungagap and fashioning a new physical form.

Writing

Bone Arrow: Character Collages

In re-working of my Amerindian inspired Fantasy novel, Bone Arrow, I’ve created character collages that visually represent aspects of the central characters and surrounding themes.


Sunktokeca: Protagonist and warrior-shaman, sent to defeat Ska-Sicanagi, destructive spirit released by the antagonist, Khangithanka.


Khangithanka: The raven god and bestower of power to shamans. Antagonist to Sunktokeca based on a prophecy declaring Sunkotkeca’s power is akin to the gods despite no pledges to Khangithanka.


Yalse: The Trickster and coyote god, opposing force to Khangithanka & Sunktokeca’s confidant. Important to the outcome of the quest but his motivation is unclear often forcing confrontations with Wazichan and Mastinca.


Ska-Sicanagi: A malevolent spirit released from its binding by Khangithanka and sent to challenge Sunktokeca. If Sunktokeca is defeated, Khangithanka will defeat Yalse and maintain dominance over the shamans.


Mastinca: Sunktokeca’s oldest & most loyal companion. Pivotal to the success of the quest.


Wazichan: An exiled warrior, highly skilled & fated to join Sunktokeca’s quest. Wazichan openly opposes the manipulation of Sunktokeca’s life by Khangithanka and Yalse.


Hinhan: A powerful, dark shaman from the southern islands and creator of the bone arrow Sunktokeca requires to destroy Ska-Sicanagi.


Wakinyela: The love of Sunktokeca’s life he must abandon to defeat Ska-Sicanagi.


Iyaka: Sunktokeca’s jealous step-brother, determined to ruin Sunktokeca’s honour & opposition for Wakinyela’s affections.