Joe Parrino, Writer

Musings on Life, Writing, and the Free Territory of Ascham

Fimbulwinter Query Letter

Hello AGENT,

INSERT PLEASANTRIES HERE. Fimbulwinter features Kori the
Berserker, Idunn the Valkyrie, and Birog the Druid, as they try to end the
Great Winter before Ragnarok swallows Ireland. My name is Joe, I am a published
neurodiverse author with a background in international relations,
and I have both OCD and ADHD. Fimbulwinter, an accessible
genre-blending young adult fantasy, is a standalone novel about surviving
the end of the world and finding love in adversity. It contains neurodiverse and
disabled characters in a brutal age and is steeped in Norse and Irish mythology.
Fimbulwinter is a loose retelling of the Irish myth of Ethniu and Cian. The
pitch attracted interest from Mythos & Ink Publishing during the December
2020 #PitMad.

THE NORTHMAN meets AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER at the end of the Viking Age in Ireland. Driven from the ashes of his winter home by dread necessity, Kori the Berserker stumbles into the arms of Idunn the Valkyrie, a child of two worlds, Norse and Irish. Together with Birog the Druid, an orange cat named Loki, and guided by the desperate and cunning god of magic and war, the trio must find the sacred sunstone of the Emerald Isle to bring an end to the Great
Winter before the world falls to Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods. Corrupted
Irish clans savage Viking mercenaries, tranquil Christian monks, and ancient
mysteries stand in their way, all under the fell influence of Balor of the Evil
Eye, an ancient monster once defeated by Cuchulainn and Queen Maibh.

In the grim darkness of the far future, I wrote two novellas, three audio
dramas, and numerous short stories for publication by Black Library, all of
which earned out and continue to earn modest royalties. I live and write in the
Mid-Atlantic with his family. A former Pinkerton analyst, I now
work for the U.S. Government and I have lived in four countries across three
continents. When not writing, I can be found skulking through the humid woods of
the region. Like the elusive Sasquatch, I enjoy reading, occasionally
traveling, and other assorted activities.

 

Cheers,

Joe Parrino

Fimbulwinter Writing Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6PWjuGAX5NpOv9k5GGdjvd?si=b321e8efc0924db3

A Conjuring of Book Recommendations

The kind folks of Shepherd recently asked me for some book recommendations. The request centered around a theme that included one of my own stories. I chose Alone an audio drama that I’ve long regarded as my finest work, excluding yet-to-be-published novels that wait in fitful slumber. The list centers around a theme, that of craft and stories to craft by. My list begins with The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, contains Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, Norse Mythology by Jackson Crawford, Nettle & Bone by T Kingfisher, and Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. The specific reasons for my list can be found at Shepherd.

The best stories that conjure another world with craft while you craft

I earned my start as a published writer through publication by Black Library, stories meant to flesh out a wider world of hobbycraft. But writing itself is a craft, a magic that conjures worlds of its own from words and hard work. In writing, the raw materials are thought and patience, memories and dreams. In other crafts, they are foods, yeasts, flour, or skeins of wool, blobs of paint. These are stories to keep you company while you craft of your own.

Shepherd has my sincere gratitude for asking me for recommendations of stories that I love. It has been a good long while since I’ve had some writing craft momentum. I hope it is but a taste of things to come.

Old Books

Yesterday, I drove to Philadelphia on a quest. I sought to attend an event I had looked forward to for several months. There was an Old Book Fair held in an old church. I didn’t really know what to expect beyond the promise of old books, a profound magic made by the concentration of so many wondrous objects. What knowledge lurked within? What wisdom?

In an old stone church, tucked between red brick row houses, looked down upon by the vaguely smiling saints of a deity I could no longer bring myself to worship, the old books gathered in their hundreds. There were books about fairies, boy wizards, and clever budding arcanists. There were books graced by the signature of one of my heroes, President U.S. Grant. There were so many books I had never heard of. History of places I was only just starting to explore. Books of poems and plays bound in leather sat beside golden age mysteries and the luminaries of visionary science fiction.

All were priced well beyond my means. Someday, I told myself. Someday, I would be able to peruse such rarefied shelves and purchase ancient occult tomes to satisfy my interests. Someday, I told myself, I would see my own books in such company. That day seems far off now, but it beckons in my dreams.

Learning a Viking Language

Over the past 2.5 months, I’ve been devoting some of my free time to learning Swedish. At some point along the way, I made it into the top 2% of language learners with Duolingo. Foreign languages are one of my many passions and I’ve picked up a few in my 33 years on this planet. At one point I was fluent in German. This skill runs in my family. One of my great grandparents spoke seven of the dang things.

As a writer, Swedish appealed to me from my interest in the Norse and now Sweden is becoming relevant to current events. It’s granted me insight into my Norse characters, Kori and Idunn. Odin may have spoken it as a native Swede as some of the sources attest. So I thought I’d try my hand at learning it to stave off boredom and expand my skills. There are things I want to read in Swedish academia, analysis of the runestones, deeper delves into topics that have captured my interest. So I’m trying my best. I hope to follow this with Norwegian, Finnish, and Icelandic. We’ll see how far I get into these successor languages of the Viking world.

My 2022 Swedish Stats

Swedish is fun, with its singsong cadence making it a joy to speak. It’s like a weird mix of English and German, with many elegant aspects that have made it easier to learn than others I’ve tried (I’m looking at you, Gaelic).

I wrote this post in haste on my phone yesterday so please excuse the typos. The bottom line is that I’ve been learning Swedish and enjoying the helvete out of it.

Battling a Creature of the Night

The night was dark and humid. Fireflies left their grassy plains of respite, heading towards the stars to find love. The day had promised storms, but delivered only sweat. I was bound for the bedroom, where a portable AC unit delivered relief.

Uncommon activity from the cat drew me from the land of dreams. She was restless, bounding about the bed. I turned on the light to find a visitor within the room.

The creature flew circles around the ceiling, looking for escape. It failed and spun about in terror.

I stared, momentarily struck dumb. A bat had made its unlikely way inside, to find itself trapped around the artificial white of this apartment ceiling. Bereft of the stars to navigate, echolocation found only walls and the predatory prowl of a black domestic cat below. Desperately, it chirped. Lupo sought shelter beneath the bed.

Battle called. I needed a weapon for this deed. I found a broom.

I swung, not too hard. My goal was not to harm the poor bat, but to knock it down, so I could catch it and bring it back to where it belonged.

Once. Twice. Three times I struck, each time dazing the poor thing, or so I hoped.

Upon the third strike, it fell within arm’s reach. I caught it in a brown towel. Desperately, it chirped, chittered, and bit at the fabric. So small it was. It was brown and fuzzy, with leathery wings and bright white teeth. I tried to handle it gently, to keep from harming its delicate bones.

Shirtless, I dashed down the stairs of the apartment, into the sweltering embrace of the Maryland night. I let it loose, and off it flew. I took it for a good sign that it was relatively unharmed by the night’s battle.

The excitement ended and the night’s routine resumed. Soon, all thoughts of battle chased from my mind, replaced by the words of Roman conquest.

Ending Droughts, Stopping Fires

Last year, I supported a group of the most badass folks (among the most badass in history/existence) during the wildfire season in the mountains running along the U.S. West Coast. They provided security at wildfires, stopped folks from running through checkpoints, kept the peace, and spread calm with their steely demeanors. In between watching the weather feeds, reading the briefings, following the map updates, looking into cults, and doing my best to track the passage of time, I dug into state government and local university resources on preventing wildfires from happening in the first place. The main thing to do involved planting trees. A lot of them. A forest’s worth.

Red is bad; orange is also bad; yellow is still pretty bad. That’s a lot of bad. l U.S. Drought Monitor

Tonight, again in the throes of boredom, and worried in my capacity as a person who is alive in our increasingly catastrophic environment, I started to research droughts and how to end them. The answer: plant a shitload of trees. The map above shows areas of the U.S. currently experiencing drought as of July 14, 2022. That shows most of the country in some shade of devastating dry.

Trees capture water, drag it up from the ground with their roots. They make the atmosphere around them more humid. Clouds that pass over forests tend to dump their rain over said forest.

“Old Man Willow” l JRR Tolkien l The Tolkien Estate

My problem is that I’m just one guy who knows how to do research and sometimes convey that research into readable English. If the solution is to plant several thousand tons (probably a gross underestimate) of tree seeds, the only way to do that at scale is through aerial dispersal. I don’t know how to make that happen. But it needs to, desperately.

So, in the event my research proves useful to anyone, here it is. If my words are persuasive, and that’s a big if, tell someone else. Maybe it will reach someone who matters. Someone who can make a decision at scale. Or even plant some trees your own damn self.

Something Cool

This article on Kate Warne, the first U.S. female detective, showed up in Smithsonian Magazine, one of my favorite reads. The article, by Kellie B. Gormly, quotes my old boss, Brian McNary, from when I was a Pinkerton, on her importance and relevance. she thwarted a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in the city near where I now live, Baltimore. They even used the only known image of her that I hunted down from the Chicago History Museum.

According to Brian, many Pinkertons had tried to find a picture or likeness of the elusive Warne, but to no avail. The project and task fell to me. In three years of searching, the person previously tasked with finding her failed.

I found her in three days, over the course of a weekend.

She was waiting in the archives of the Chicago History Museum. That is one of my favorite stories from those days as a Pinkerton agent, an analyst following in Warne’s footsteps. Later, I visited her grave and let her know that Pinkertons today still honor her.

Putting Out Fires

Things have gone quiet around here, again. My activity seems to come and go in flourishes. In truth, I have had little time to devote to writing. My focus has been on finding a job, before unemployment runs out, before the housing market collapses, before the world burns.

I have been working part-time, since March-ish, doing something that I consider wholly worthy. We are putting out fires, keeping things safe so that others can do their job. I’ve been places I never thought I would go and rushed into danger with some of the most competent people I have ever met. All come straight out of stories. I have passed beyond levels of discomfort and anxiety into another me. The future still terrifies me, but I see hope on the horizon. The world seems to be coming around to the peril we’ve found ourselves in.

Soon, I will get to go home. I hope, as the leaves change and the weather turns, that my home state is calling. Since the Other Guy (I shudder not to use a worse epithet) left office, since his supporters stormed a building I grew up around, my feet have been itching to go back, to assess the damage, to try to help, and to see old family and friends.

Progress Update

Present: I realized that one of these is long overdue. Loads of things have happened since last I posted on this here blog, some of which are world-shatteringly strange and personal, others are something I should take the time to humblebrag about.

I’ve nearly finished another novel. Fimbulwinter, the focus of the most recent drift of blogs, is nearly a completed zero draft. The bones are solid. It needs work, but what doesn’t? I continue to hone my craft, remember the old me, and vomit words onto the page in a slurry of mead and myth. In a week or two, I will be done with writing my third novel. I will put it to rest and dream of better words, stories, and characters. As the season turns here in the Northwest, I feel my writing powers awakening with the arrival of storms and shitty weather. My summer torpor falls away as the mist begins to rise.

Past: This Red Business continues to percolate and lately I have heard Pumpkin and Whissen Foss stir, ready to scurry all over the page again. I continue to issue forth queries into the waiting maws of agents with the stubborn hope that This Red Business will enter meatspace.

Future: Ahead of me, yawns the yawning void of empty space. I can feel a space opera calling. Notes I crafted for 40k, long dormant planets and peoples, awaken from cryo-sleep. I can even hear the bzzzzt, the thrum, and see the glow of a lightsaber or two. We’ll see where this one goes, but for now I have created a playlist for it. Listen below if the mood strikes as I trod back into the word mines.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/4U3P7Zn9ll3qC2nDWlNTtn

Consolidated Query Materials

In the event this proves helpful, I thought I would put together all the blog posts and pages I’ve been carefully assembling that touch on This Red Business.

Mission Statement: http://captainofchickens.com/mission-statement/

Query Letter, Bio, and Sample Pages: http://captainofchickens.com/this-red-business-query-letter-and-sample-pages/

Pitches: http://captainofchickens.com/pitches/

Synopsis: http://captainofchickens.com/this-red-business-synopsis/

Maps: http://captainofchickens.com/a-map-of-the-free-territory-of-ascham/

Writing Playlists: http://captainofchickens.com/musical-playlists/

Previously Published Works: http://captainofchickens.com/published-works/

Reference Materials: http://captainofchickens.com/incomplete-list-of-reference-materials/

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