April 19, 2016
My weekly column with Planet JH is directly to blame for my inconsistency with blogging As you very well know, I live in a pretty remote part of Iceland, and there’s just not a whole lot of “news” that I have to share. I’m usually working at the hotel, doing some catering projects here and there. I spend my time off watching “Masterchef” reruns or, if I’m feeling creative, working on some writing projects!
However, I have been reporting on my Icelandic journeys in my weekly column, “Well, That Happened,”for my newspaper back home, and I’m going to be backlogging some of those entries into this blog. As I upload them, you’ll be able to journey back through time with me and see how I’ve been living. For now, here’s my most recent column made available for all to read.
Living out here in Neskaupstaður, Iceland, nine hours from Reykjavík, I’ve come to embrace that the most beautiful places in Iceland are those hidden away and difficult to reach.
The hotel I work at has recently purchased an old fishing boat named Gerpir, which can hold about 30-40 people comfortably. It’s about fifteen-meters long and has a cozy cabin beneath the deck with benches, tables, and a kitchenette. Gerpir is now part of the Hildibrand Hotel family and will be bring guests into the fjord, Norðfjörður, throughout the summer.
Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining our staff and bosses on a quick fishing tour into the fjord. We’d been spotting two humpback whales—a mother and a calf—for the past few days, and were eager to get some good photos of them. Iceland doesn’t have any indigenous land mammals (the Arctic fox’s origin is still up for debate), so spotting whales can be a big event, even for the Icelanders.
We hopped into the boat and began sailing east in the fjord towards the Atlantic Ocean. Heavy cloud cover made for a chilly adventure, but we were bundled up tight and far too focused on whale-searching to notice. Northern fulmars soared past our boat, curiously flying just feet from where I was standing on the deck. Our eyes were peeled for blows and black backs, and we prayed that the whales hadn’t abandoned us in the few hours since we’d last seen them.
But the expedition was fruitless as the calm waters revealed nothing but eider ducks, black-headed gulls and more fulmars. We switched off the engines and proceeded to dip our fishing rods into the fjord to see if we could catch some dinner. Icelanders have a fishing birthright, meaning they are able to fish as much as they want, as long as their catch is not being resold. Fishing companies have far more regulations and quotas they need to abide by, but if you’re just a fellow trying to feed his family, you can fish as much as you want.
As we pulled wriggling cod from the sea, the clouds opened up and the sun brought the sea to life. Shimmering reflections bounced off the sides of the boat and shadows of the circling fulmars fell across the deck. We may not have found any whales, but there wasn’t a frown in sight.
Before heading back to the harbor, we decided to make a trip into the next fjord south of us, Hellisfjörður, or the cave fjord. Sailing around the bend was awe-inspiring, as the ocean swells crashed against the cliffs with thuds that can only be described as thunderous. It felt like Jurassic Park and I nearly expected our elusive whale to reappear right then and there. The massive mountain towered above us and soon we had exited our populated fjord and achieved utter isolation.
The wind died down. The birds dissipated. The swells began to soften.
In the early twentieth century, a whaling station operated out of the fjord. They pulled in around three-thousand whales before ultimately shutting down around 1915. Electricity was on the rise, and fewer people were using whale oil to light lanterns. All that remains now is a vague skeletal structure on an abandoned beach.
We shut down the engines and bobbed in the waves. I could help eagerly taking in the 360-degree view. Other than the remains of the whaling station, there wasn’t a single sign of human life. We were alone. Steaming coffee and tuna fish sandwiches were passed around. Cigarettes were bummed. Two inquisitive puffins landed in the water next to us. And it was at that moment I realized how thrilled I was to be living in this part of the country.
Yes, it’s sometimes annoying to be so cut off from the rest of Iceland. And I’m often asked why I chose to live in such a remote place in Iceland when I could have easily reaped the city comforts of Reykjavík. Bobbing there in Hellisfjörður, I could have shouted my answer to the world. But, like a fallen tree in the woods, there was no one around to hear me.
A half-mile in the distance, I spotted a blow from our whale friends. I smiled, bringing the coffee cup to my lips, telling no one.
(Originally published in Planet JH)
April 13, 2016
The Icelandic hotel I work for has been catering the cast and crew of the TV show “Fortitude” for the past two weeks, and I’ve been lucky enough to be in the presence of some big names in the industry. However, we have all been sworn to secrecy about whatever we overhear or witness as filming for the second season continues. But I’ve recently been imbued with some knowledge that would make the producers of the show squirm: I know who dies.
As many readers know, writing is a hefty passion of mine that exists beyond the confines of this weekly column. I’ve written everything from novels to plays to poetry, and recently I’ve been interested in converting some of my creations into television and/or movie screenplays. So when I found a copy of a “Fortitude” script and shot list, I was faced with a dilemma.
Do I keep the script and learn from it, or do I return it to its rightful owners?
As I write these words, a moral struggle also plagues the Icelandic government. It’s a big deal here. Long story short, Iceland’s government is now crumbling.
Last month it was revealed via a Facebook status update by Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir, wife of Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s, that she owned an offshore shell company called Wintris Inc., which managed her inheritance assets. The multi-million-dollar company also bought bonds in a few Icelandic banks—the same banks that crumbled during Iceland’s 2008 financial crash.
Since his election, Gunnlaugsson has done much to uphold his vow of cracking down on foreign creditors. However, an information leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, now coined the “Panama Papers,” revealed that Gunnlaugsson is also listed as a co-owner of Wintris, Inc.
The PM denied any wrongdoing and initially refused to step down; until he did on April 7. The days leading up to his decision were full of protests in Reykjavik. One day as many as 22,000 protestors were at the footsteps of the Parliament building. That’s nearly twice as many protesters as there were in 2008 during the financial crash.
Now Iceland’s Pirate Party—a political party that champions tenets similar to Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialism—is enjoying a surge in popularity from Icelandic citizens hoping to extricate corrupt individuals from its government.
After Gunnlaugsson resigned, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, former minister of fisheries and agriculture, became Iceland’s new PM. However, this move is incredibly unpopular, as his appointment by the Iceland Government Coalition is seen as a simple reshuffle of the same deck. People are now demanding new elections and hoping the economy doesn’t collapse again as a result.
Back to “Fortitude”—I realize keeping the secret script to myself without returning it would be simply for my own gain and might get someone else, perhaps a forgetful lead actor, in trouble. It did, after all, reveal a character death, and in our information age, a spoiler of that magnitude would be devastating to the production.
I kept the script hidden as I considered what to do. Finally, I waited until some crew members were returning to the hotel for the night, and walked up to a stunt double (who looked remarkably like his Hollywood actor counterpart). I explained who I was and handed back the show’s holy grail. The man looked relieved and let out a puff of air, thanking me for returning it.
While me keeping a TV script is nowhere near as despicable as a government official hiding money away in an offshore account, it got me thinking—it would be nice if we lived in a world where more people were guided by morality, especially in politics. If anything, a person’s sense of morality should bear a healthier amount of fortitude.
(Originally published in Planet JH)
April 6, 2016
I’ve been living in the small town of Neskaupstaður, Iceland, for five months now, and I recently realized I’ve never considered myself as an immigrant or a migrant worker. The term “expatriate” always tasted a little better on the tongue, but I don’t know why I never connected the dots before. Perhaps because (thanks to my dual citizenship with Austria) I managed to evade entangling myself in any immigration red tape, and was able to find a job fairly quickly. But now that the romance of moving to Iceland has dulled, I’ve been faced with the harsh reality of what so many expatriates face: integration.
The hotel I’m employed at has a few other international workers and we’ve created our own version of camaraderie within the confines of the property. There’s a mediocre pizza joint, one or two bars (operating hours whimsically vary) and, well, that’s about it. And while one of those bars occasionally has a DJ or a live band, we foreigners have an incredibly difficult time meeting new people.
As you can imagine, Icelandic is an extremely difficult language to master. While a few of us have added some useful phrases into our arsenals, they’re not enough to win favor with the locals. Unlike in Reykjavík, where English can be almost more common than Icelandic, our town is in the boonies, way off on the other side of the country. The people who live here haven’t fully experienced the massive tourism floods that plague the west and south coasts, so English is not a priority. Not with the older folks, anyhow.
I do my best to tell the locals and hotel guests that I’m learning Icelandic (Ég er að læra Íslensku!), but also that I can’t speak it very well. More often than not they would prefer I get someone Icelandic to help them, rather than bother with English. This can certainly dampen my spirits, because I want nothing more than to be seen as a part of the community, even if just for the limited time I’ll spend here.
The locals whisper about us foreigners behind our backs, wondering what we’re doing here and why our boss wouldn’t just hire Icelanders for our positions. Oftentimes at functions or parties, a few Icelanders are interested in getting to know us. I had to find out why we are continuously so shrugged off, so I asked local hair stylist Anna Bella Sigurðardóttir, who gave me some insight.
“The personality is carried over from the time of the fish factory,” Anna Bella said. “It used to be a seasonal company with operations in the summer only. So people would come only for a few months, and people didn’t bother getting to know them because they would be gone anyway in the fall.”
I hung my head and laughed. She asked me what was so funny.
“We have the exact same problem in my hometown,” I said.
Here I am, 3,500 miles away from Wyoming, and I find myself still standing in the shoes of two types of Jackson Hole workers: the immigrant who doesn’t speak the language, and the 90-day wonder who wants to be a part of the community.
A majority of my Icelandic language frustrations can be likened to Spanish-speaking workers trying to master English, and my desire to be seen as less of an outsider is no different than those Southern swoop-haired fellas who come to Jackson and claim local status.
I’m happy my own privilege and comfort-zone have been challenged in Iceland. It’s refreshing to trip on the curb of another person’s reality. An experience like this makes me truly appreciate and admire other people who leave their home countries to take up a new adventure elsewhere. It will continue to be a struggle way out here in east Iceland, but hopefully I’ll soon get a little better at the language so I can become the Viking I aspire to be.
(Originally published in Planet JH)
March 30, 2016
Iceland is commonly lumped among the progressive Nordic/Scandinavian countries and rightfully so. Gay marriage has been legal since 2010 and citizens elected the world’s first openly gay prime minister in 2009. But while the country strives to move with the times, there is a rampant stubbornness among its people that is rooted in long-term traditions and religion. Icelanders don’t get their panties in a twist as much as conservative Americans, but every once in a while a pandemic will sweep through the country that will divide its people. And right now, that pandemic is a group of fifteen sexually-charged, potty-mouthed feminist hip-hop artists called Reykjavíkurdætur, or the daughters of Reykjavík.
The rap collective is considered to be progressive by some and shameful to others, and the group of girls thrives off their own controversy. When I saw the group perform at Iceland Airwaves back in November, they performed in nude-colored underwear, which highlighted every curve and crevice—an intentional decision to show how little they care about body image. Their shows are always energetic, always crazy, with each one of the girls wielding a microphone and spitting verses like the best of them.
But if their scandalous stage presence is too shocking for some audiences, then their good-humored but provocative lyrics might just knock conservatives back to 1950s suburbia.
“It is so nice to get it up the ass/I like myself a pinky winky in the stinky/ because I’m a feminist/ and I’m kinky.”
Another song, “Ógeðsleg,” or “Revolting”, puts sexual dominance, clitoris-sucking and tampon use on a pedestal without any apologies or censorship. This particular song has Iceland in a complete whirlwind of political correctness, recently, thanks to Reykjavíkurdætur’s appearance on the evening talk show “Vikan, með Gísla Merteini.” Rather than performing at the stage, the girls swarmed the host’s desk and the couch, clad in hospital gowns and scrubs. Two of the performers wore strap-on dildos and began humping their mortified onlookers as they sang into their microphones. One of the guests, esteemed Icelandic actress Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir, stood up and stormed off stage in the middle of the song.
The act was particularly controversial because the show is frequently watched by families and the elderly. Much like Miley Cyrus’s more recent antics, Reykjavíkurdætur has been accused of abusing sexual exploitation and shock value to gain attention. The group, who also told the Icelandic Prime Minister to “suck my pussy,” has no problem with such a classification.
“Fifty-percent of the nation are racist, anti-feminist, narrow-minded and living in a box,” member Vigðís Ósk said in a 2016 Vice interview. “People look at us and they wouldn’t even know where to start. They look at us and they can’t say it’s good, as it’s not allowed; they don’t think we should have a voice for it.”
Most likely, much of that naysaying 50 percent lives in the more conservative parts of Iceland, (otherwise known as everywhere outside of Reykjavík). Two-thirds of Iceland’s 325,000 population lives in and around the capital, which means that the only connection most rural areas have to popular Icelandic culture is via television shows, the Internet and the radio. Suffice to say, Reykjavíkurdætur don’t regularly perform in the smaller municipalities.
One 20-year-old male coworker of mine, who has lived in this town of 1,500 for his whole life, told me, “[The members] are just sluts. They’re getting popular and they’re representing Iceland, so people are looking at them and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s normal,’ when it isn’t.”
Iceland is such a small country, but so many eyes are trained on it. According to the Icelandic Tourism Board, 1,261,938 tourists entered Iceland through the international airport in 2015, and a minimum 20 percent increase is projected for 2016. The worry is that too much controversy will suppress the image Iceland is trying to trademark: a quiet place where nature and culture work in harmony. That doesn’t work so well when the increasingly popular Reykjavíkurdætur is encouraging butt stuff.
“I mean we’re progressive,” my co-worker said. “But we’re not that progressive.”
Check out more of Reykjavíkurdætur’s music HERE
(Originally published in Planet JH)
March 8, 2016
It’s International Women’s Day today and I felt it necessary to write a blog post about the women of my life and dedicate it to those who I’ve yet to meet. Throughout my life female badasses have dominated both my writing and my personal experiences, so I’m no stranger to the idea that women should be honored and recognized for their capabilities.
Having always been surrounded by strong female role models, I am not someone who wonders why we don’t have an International Men’s Day. Instead, I’m someone who believes that women should be highlighted as equals, and an international holiday that reminds us of that is nothing to be scared of, unless of course the idea of a powerful woman scares you. And if that’s the case, then you definitely need to sort out your values, buddy-o.
I grew up in a very close family that was instantly shattered by divorce when I was eleven. I grew up under two older sisters who have both dealt with their (un)fair share of domestic abuse, and a mother who managed to swim against the tide of an unfaithful husband. They haven’t emerged from their battles unscathed. And some battles are still being fought. But I grew up learning from them, understanding adversities that I knew, as a man, I would never face. I had always longed for an older brother, but as I matured, I realized that no older brother would ever be as strong or as brave as the women who raised me.
Because of this, I never grew up thinking that women were in some way less than anything. Instead, I saw them as more of everything. More willing to compromise. More courageous. More honest. More willing to speak up. More willing to take action. I connected with my female teachers far more than my male teachers, because, over the course of my life, the best lessons were taught to me by fearless women.
From my middle sister, I learned about humility and putting others before yourself. I learned that the truth is the most important ingredient in a family recipe and sometimes indulging in your vices ain’t nobody’s business but yours. Plus, cheap beer and a little country music never hurt anybody.
From my oldest sister, I learned about adventure and not caring about what others thought of your choices. She taught me to never compromise, to block out the noise and listen solely to the songs your heart sings. And always listen to the yodeling from the mountains, because home is what you make of it.
And from my mother I learned about table manners and different cultures and the consequences of holding grudges. She taught me about forgiveness and respect, about cooking amazing food, dancing to Viennese waltzes and how to keep a tight grip on family traditions. She taught me that my dreams are always worth a damn, even when the rest of the world or other family members doubt them. Not only did she encourage my creativity, but she embraced her own and has been kicking ass with her design work ever since. And more than anything, she always showed up, even when she was busy, even when she didn’t want to see the play or the concert, she exemplified the fact that you always show up. And you always finish what you start.
The women of my life injected me with an unending respect for women in general. And when I watch TV shows or movies or read novels that don’t have female characters that resemble those women, then it’s easy for me to tune out. Because, in my opinion, that’s not reality. I will always choose Catwoman over Batman, Buffy over Angel, Xena over Hercules, Hermione over Harry. Because even with their flaws, the majority of strong female characters aren’t just fictitious creations to me–they’re honest representations of the women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
Hopefully when my readers acquaint themselves with the female characters of my books, stories and plays, they’ll understand that my perspective has been the same since I was young and it will continue throughout my adulthood. I know full well that women don’t need men to save them, nor should they be bound to specific gender roles.
They always say writers should write what they know. When it comes to female badasses, I’ve never known anything else.
Happy International Women’s Day ladies and gents. But mostly ladies.😉
February 2, 2016
Sometimes I can’t handle how many ideas I come up with. Every time they show up in my head, I think they’re the greatest things ever, but after gesticulating for a few hours, they fizzle out and die. Some ideas have blossomed into novels, short stories and poems, while others haven’t made it past a character name.
For the month of February, I’m going to be posting these various ideas (all currently unpublished, but wholly my own) with an accompanying drawing on my Instagram @munzofsteel.
I know I’m not the best illustrator, but I like that these drawings are as simple as some of the ideas that lay behind them. Like I said, some of these posts haven’t made it past the brainstorming stage, while others have blossomed into full-length novels.
Below is a taste of five of them. For the full series (once again) check out @munzofsteel on the Instagramz.
January 22, 2016
I’ve had so many friends and friends of friends come to me with some advice on how to travel to Iceland, what to do, where to go, how expensive things are and if I had any other tips and tricks about navigating this little island in the North Atlantic. And each time I’ve offered some unique advice depending on what kind of adventure that person was looking for. There are so many resources on the internet and in guidebook form that it can be a little overwhelming.
So I’ve decided that I would offer up my own personal guide, 90% Munz style. That means I’m not going to tell you anything boring like how to rent a car or how to find the best deals for hostels. That kind of stuff shifts depend on the seasons and the years, and I don’t want to have to update this every month (not because I’m lazy…okay, yes, because I’m super lazy). Instead of telling you the perfect places to go, I will help you piece together an adventure from the ground up. All I ask of you is to say “yes” to everything, and let Iceland open itself up to you as it did to me.
Note: If I planned extensively for my first Iceland visit and kept to a schedule, I would not have loved it as much as I do now. I love Iceland because I allowed myself to get lost in its majesty, to be completely open and willing to do whatever I was presented with.
The Top Three Things to Pack Before You Visit Iceland
- Optimism: Iceland is one of the easiest places in the world to travel because the country has completely transformed itself to accommodate the massive influx of visitors. Don’t stress about anything (I know this might be hard for some of you) and keep yourself open to possibilities. Even if your hotel is fully booked or your car rental falls through or a massive rock storm stands between you and the main road (it happens), know that Iceland is virtually idiot-proof. Please don’t prove me wrong.
- A Loose Tongue: As an English speaker, it’s ridiculously easy to navigate your way around Iceland. Everyone speaks at least some English and you’ll find plenty of tourist resources in even the smallest village. Because of the tourism boom, Icelanders expect that you won’t be able to pronounce Icelandic towns or other words. But if you attempt, they will love you for it. It’s a great way to integrate yourself into the culture without seeming like a clueless tourist. Practice your rolled-r’s now, because every single r in Icelandic is rolled. Good? You’ll be pronouncing Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur in no time!
- Patience: I know these things aren’t necessarily packable, but they’re incredibly important and this last one might be the most important when coming to Iceland. Because things move at a much slower pace here. Sometimes buses don’t come on time and sometimes the hotel front desk isn’t open when they say they are. Restaurants might be able to seat you in 20 minutes or an hour depending on how things go. An Icelandic acquaintance will tell you they’ll meet you at 11:00, but they might show up around 10:45 or 11:30, depending on how the day is going. This isn’t true for every Icelander, but it’s just how things go here. The more you can separate yourself from the timetables you might be used to, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the present and not waste a single moment on being worried or stressed out.
I point out these things directly because Iceland is a country of +/- 320,000 people in a country roughly the size of Kentucky. It takes time to get anywhere, weather is always a factor and you have to be okay with road closures, wind storms and the occasional volcanic eruption. It happens and the Icelanders have built their culture around unpredictability.
Now that you have your three most important things packed, let’s talk about your adventure. If you’ve been on Icelandic tourist websites, you’ve probably seen a map like this:
The black line depicts the Ring Road, or Highway 1, which circumnavigates the entire island. If you stick to the Ring Road, yes you will just about everything Iceland has to offer. You will take these same photos and your adventure will be exactly like thousands of other tourists before you.
Yes, these are beautiful pictures. But at each of these places during the summer season you will no doubt have sometimes hundreds of other tourists standing next to you or nearby. If you’re cool with that, then by all means, head to these spots and see Iceland’s best tourist landmarks. I definitely did that on my first trip to Iceland, but there’s so much to see and if you only photograph the big grandiose recognizable landmarks, then you’re setting the bar too high for the rest of the country.
The best thing you can do is rent a car and make your own path. Yes you’ll learn a lot from the bus tours and the guides, but the tourism industry will now say just about anything to get money out of you. I’m sure you’ve heard about the scuba trip in which you can dive between the North American and European tectonic plates and touch both?
Yeah, it’s total bullshit. The Þingvellir valley is massive and while Iceland did emerge out of a crack resulting of the two tectonic plates pulling apart, the area is so huge (as are the plates) that it’s impossible to pinpoint where the separation is. The Silfra fissure where the diving takes place is just one of many cracks in Iceland’s crust, and there’s really no way to prove that the crack is in North America or Europe. In reality, the person in the above picture spent too much money to touch some underwater rocks…
The best thing you can do is to talk to real Icelanders who are not involved with the tourism industry. Fishermen, farmers, grocery store clerks, cafe baristas, and just about anyone you meet at the bar. Icelanders appear to be very cold on the outside–they value privacy and don’t like small talk–but are always willing to help out, so long as it doesn’t require too much of them. Follow the Ring Road, but make your own path, whether it’s clockwise or counter clockwise. The Icelanders are the best people to tell you about secret hikes, hidden hot springs, amazing vistas and the best place to watch the sunset (if it sets at all).
I recommend a car over hitchhiking because, again, the Icelanders will always pick you up (other tourists will speed past you in a terrified panic), but don’t ask them to take you too far. Icelanders have a history of getting taken advantage of (especially by their own government), so the more you can show your gratitude without being too needy, the better you’ll look in their eyes.
Important Travel Tip: no matter where you travel to in the world, you are an ambassador of your homeland. I’ve been told repeatedly that I don’t “seem American,” which is both a compliment and a curse. Just remember, the more polite, open and understanding you are, the better light you’ll cast over your whole country. Eliminate your expectations and go with the flow.
You’ll notice I haven’t really recommended anywhere to go. That’s because it’s SO important to keep your destinations up in the air. If you’re traveling during peak season worried about finding accommodation in time, rent a camper van or just bundle up and sleep in your car. That’s part of the adventure! Remember what I said about being optimistic and patient.
You absolutely can travel like a tourist in Iceland. You can stay at hotels, have buses take you on day trips, eat only safe recognizable foods, take the same photos as everyone else, and never venture off the beaten path. There are tourists who come to Iceland who never have a conversation with a real Icelander! And if that’s the way you want to travel, by all means have at it. But that ain’t the Munz way of life, and it really shouldn’t be yours. When you travel you have to take risks. There’s no other way to feel alive.
The more risks you take, the more Iceland will take care of you. I’m encouraging you to budget a good amount of money and have the ability to go whale watching if the opportunity presents itself. I want you to go to the grocery store and ask the clerks about things you don’t recognize, don’t just buy the brands you recognize. The more you can challenge your comfort zone, the better your memories will be.
Yes, millions of people are traveling to Iceland every year. But because of its size and remoteness, it’s possible to have your own unique adventure that is completely different than anyone else’s. Obviously, I want you to be a conscientious traveler and not act like an idiot. Please read this. It’s absolutely required reading for anyone traveling to Iceland.
Ultimately, I want you to have the best time and am completely open to giving you specific suggestions if you want them. Just leave a comment below and I’ll respond to whatever questions you may have.
Iceland is my new home and I want everyone to have the best time when they come here. Now, start planning your trip and get your ass over here.
January 19, 2016
Last night I went for an inspiration walk around midnight. Sometimes the best thing I can do to help spark a novel idea or flesh out an existing idea is to go out for a night walk with my headphones in. If you know me, I’m definitely the super-ambitious type and tend to have no less than five projects going on at all times. It was true in Chicago, it was true in Wyoming and it’s true again here in Iceland.
I touched on a few projects in my last blog, but here’s the Official List of Munz Projects for January 2016:
- Getting my YA western “Blade of the Outlaw” out there and desperately trying to convince agents that adventure westerns set during the gunslinging era are not dead (see: “The Hateful Eight,” “The Revenant,” and the upcoming “Jane Got a Gun”)
- Researching and creating a completely imaginary world based on Icelandic folklore for my MG Fantasy “The Saga of Sigga Finns”
- Working on the libretto for my epic troll musical, “Trolls of the North Fjord,” set here in the little Icelandic fjord where I currently reside
- Beefing up the series outline for my possibly-a-podcast-or-maybe-a-TV-pilot, “here/after” based on my first unpublished, ginormous mess of a novel
- Working on a new YA Contemporary set that’s a little “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and a little “Anna and the French Kiss”
- Ensuring this blog doesn’t fall victim to the five aforementioned projects… *echem*
Looking at all of that my mind starts to go all:
But that doesn’t faze me. I’ve had much more on my plate and came out the other side with nary a scratch and plenty of work to show for it. So now it’s just a matter of finding the time to get all this together.
The nice thing about life in Iceland is that it’s so much slower than life in the states. I don’t respond to e-mails nearly as quickly as I used to, and I’ve developed a profound ability to thoughtfully stare off into the distance without my mind venturing off into East Jesus Nowhere territory. I’ve always wondered if my dependency to technology was causing some ADHD misfires in my brain, but Iceland has certainly helped me calm the voices (not actual voices) and find some solitude.
On my night walk I had Björk’s “Vulnicura” blasting in my earholes and (I never thought I’d say this) I am really starting to appreciate Björks vocal stylings. I’ve always tried to force Björk’s music into my life, as if, like a blue cheese-stuffed olive, I might somehow acquire a taste for it. I guess forcing myself to like her songs kind of worked. But regardless, if you haven’t experienced the video for “Stonemilker,” you really need to. Best watched on a computer.
The walk definitely injected a bit of creativity into my soul, and I went home to immediately write 1,500 words on my new work-in-progress. But the coolest thing was when I was standing in complete darkness and the light from the lighthouse occasionally flashed over me. I managed to snap this photo of my shadow which looked just like a lighthouse. LOVE THIS COUNTRY!
So yeah. Iceland is amazing, and I’m loving being here. The winter has definitely been harsh (as has the lack of sunshine), but overall I’m digging it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
January 8, 2016
Okay. Pumped! It’s 2:09am but I gotta get this off my chest.
It’s a new year! I survived my first Icelandic Christmas and Icelandic New Years (check out my PlanetJH columns here for details). And while I was standing at the top of an enormous fishing ship watching the fireworks explode above the
city large town of Akureyri, Iceland, I whispered to myself, “This is it.”
I don’t necessarily know what that “it” is yet, but I assume it was my slightly inebriated brain sending me a subliminal message from the future that 2016 is going to be the year when things start to go right for me and my publishing career.
I don’t think I blogged about it, but my literary agent and I broke off our partnership back in July. It was definitely an unexpected turn of events, and I felt a little broken and talentless afterwards. But after some intense soul searching (and some massive support from my fellow writers), I believe the split was for the best. And I emerged from the fray with”Blade of the Outlaw” firmly in hand. I knew I wasn’t going to give up on stubborn ole Leyton Thacker and his messy gang of outlaws just yet, and decided to immediately get back out there and start querying new agents.
The months that followed were full of rejections from more and more agents telling me that the story was great, but there was some elusive something that was holding them back. One agent even wrote: “I think the writing is very strong, and I felt fully immersed into this narrative world you’ve drawn up. However, and with a lot of internal struggle, I’m going to pass. Although I did really like the characters, I didn’t fall in love with them like I’d hoped.”
So it goes! There’s so much good stuff out there so I understand that agents have to be selective.
As I write this, my full manuscript is in the hands of three agents and am actively querying more. I can’t let my novel fester in some dusty USB memory stick when I have so many friends and family members who are rooting for me to succeed.
Yes, I still get rejection letters. Yes, they suck.
A lot. Haha.
But I keep on querying. And that’s all I can do.
Since splitting with my agent I’ve moved to Iceland, and I’ve been working on a handful of creative projects that have all been fractioning out my time like needy step-children. Among a handful of partial new novel ideas, I’m working on a new MG/YA (can’t figure out where it’s going to lean yet) about a young troll hunter, and I’ve also been meddling with a full-length dramatic troll musical (yes that’s right) with my new friend Þórður. It’s called “Trolls of the North Fjord” and it’s badass. Official promo material sneak peek:
It’s nowhere near being completed (we’re closing in on finalizing the first song and I’m still trying to organize and write the script), but the process has been so much fun and I’m thrilled to see what’s going to come of it.
But I realize that all of this is a result of me not letting my agent fiasco get the better of me. I know parting ways with an agent is something that happens to a lot of writers; many published authors are currently with their second or third agents. I just have to keep pushing. I know there’s someone out there who’s going to love my story as much as I do, and be willing to go the extra mile to help me get it published. Staying confident!
So that’s the update. For now anyway. I always say I’ll blog more, but really the mood just has to strike me. I also promised a bunch of people I’d post my thoughts on “Star Wars: Episode VII” so there’s definitely going to be at least one more blog on the way.
Thanks everyone for your support and committed readership. I know I will produce more things for you all to enjoy. I will never give up on pulling things out of my brain to entertain you with. Stay tuned.
November 22, 2015
Living in Neskaupstaður has already made me appreciate what people call “the little things.” Moving here, I knew that I would be learning how to slow down my life and take everything at a more relaxed pace. Right now, I’m lounging on the couch in my apartment listening to my Spotify Discovery Weekly playlist (who, seemingly, knows me better than I know myself) with zero things plaguing my mind. If you know me personally, you know that I always have 80,000 things going on at the same time, and right now I’m free of obligation. Well, at least for another two hours, when I head down to learn more from the head chef here at Hildibrand, Guðni.
This weekend we had our first Christmas buffet for guests. On Fridays and Saturdays until Christmas hits, we’ll be preparing both a hot and cold buffet of traditional Icelandic fare. That includes reindeer and goose patês, smoked guillemot in gelatin, smoked lamb, cured lamb, smoked salmon, gravlax w/ delicious gravlaxsósa (sauce), lamb & tempura shrimp sushi (Food Rule: to make any dish Icelandic, add smoked lamb!), cured goose breasts, baked ham and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Toss in a couple desserts like a rhubarb cake and some gingerbread and cream sandwich cookes and you got yerself a good ole Icelandic Christmas. Þórður, a fellow in town who heads up the church choir, plays accordion in the lobby as the guests drink Christmas beer (beer w/ sweet malt) and a type of mulled wine.
Þórður and I are getting together later on tonight to work on a troll musical he and I are writing. Yes, trolls! It’s going to be set in the area and talk about some of the trolls that currently are perched up on the mountaintops gazing down on our East Fjord town. So yep. Other than that, I don’t have much else going on.
And I’m totally okay with that.
I don’t mind having a whole day to myself, working a couple hours on the town blog or in the kitchen (or both), hanging out with my new friends, watching some “Fargo” (WHY ARE YOU NOT WATCHING THIS SEASON?!). I love looking out at the fjord, watching the unseen sun cast light on the mountains above me (we won’t get any direct sunlight until April or so), hearing the sea birds cackle and occasionally gander at the fishing boats that slowly trawl their way up and down the fjord bringing in the freshest catch. I meet a new person almost every day, and they’re all wonderful and smiling all the time. Whoever said Nordic folk are cold and distant got it all wrong, by the way.
Nothing feels better than to be enjoying my job, having zero money concerns (my expenses are super low here), and just breathing in the ocean air and sighing in pure satisfaction. I didn’t think it would be possible to rid myself of all that Jackson Hole stress or the depression I had kicking around behind closed doors. I’m finding a balance here. Sure, it took flying halfway around the world to find it, but man it feels good to be standing on solid ground.