Joe Parrino, Writer

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

Fimbulwinter Query Letter

Hello AGENT,

Coming in at 50,610 words and 188 pages, Fimbulwinter marries the world and themes of VIKINGS: VALHALLA with the tone, magic, and fairytale retelling of THE PUPPETMASTER’S APPRENTICE, all set at the end of the Viking Age in Ireland. The pitch attracted interest from Mythos & Ink Publishing during the December 2020 #PitMad. It is an accessible genre-blending young adult fantasy and a standalone novel about surviving the end of the world and finding love and magic in adversity. It contains neurodiverse and disabled characters in a brutal age and is a loose retelling of the Irish myth of Ethniu and Cian and the Norse myth of Bragi and Idunn.

Driven from the ashes of his winter home by the death of his whole village and a need to remember his family and tell their story, 17-year-old Kori the Berserker stumbles into the arms of a shieldmaiden, a child of two worlds, Norse and Irish. Together with a young druid, an orange cat named for a trickster, 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. In a world swallowed by winter, three teens band together as Vikings, risking what little they must to stop the Twilight of the Gods. If the gods are fated to fail, what hope do they have?

My name is Joe, I am a published neurodiverse author with a background in international relations, and I have both OCD and ADHD. In the grim darkness of the far future, I wrote two novellas, three audio dramas, and numerous short stories for Black Library. My published stories have sold over 72,000 copies, earning out and providing modest royalties. I have lived all over the world and on both coasts of the U.S. I now live and write in the Mid-Atlantic. When not writing, I can be found skulking through the humid woods of the region. Like the elusive Sasquatch, I enjoy writing, reading, occasionally traveling, and other assorted activities.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing back from you.


Joe Parrino

Fimbulwinter Playlist:

One Foot in Front of the Other

A week or so ago, I embarked on a new novel. I crafted a new playlist. I began to think of new names. I read more wisdom from Walt Whitman.

I can hear Pumpkin’s growl and Whissen’s gentle guidance to put one foot in front of the other. I am writing again of Ascham. The city find itself in an election, reunited with a greater country. Participating in a democracy in all its messy glory. New comrades join the old family. The Chickenshits stumble into misadventure once more.

I think the received advice tells authors to stay away from a follow-up to an unpublished work. I wanted to do that, but the story calls. I will follow where it goes, towards progress, not perfection.

This will mark my fourth novel. The first, I cacked up and lost in deep despair. I wrote the second in a ten-day frenzy. The third took a month for the rough draft to emerge from the fimbulwinter snows.

None of this would be possible without perseverance against impossible odds and the cherished devotion of fans who continue to come across my work. Last year, I had a story published again for the first time in years. Through you wonderful people, I sold almost 82,000 copies of my stories.

Thank you.

The Great Devourer: The Leviathan Omnibus.

A Signing

I did something today that hasn’t happened for a very long while.

To set the stage, I have been returning to the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, to the stars where there is only war and the laughter of dark gods. Friends and colleagues revealed its popularity in a surprising quarter, including some who already owned my stories.

So I stopped at the Mt. Airy Warhammer yesterday to peruse the shelves of expensive models, searching for a Kill Team to call my own. There, the manager, a kind soul named Franklin, discovered that I was once a Black Library author.

Today, I returned to learn the actual game mechanics. I lost the game, grey knights felled handily by Arbites. Franklin caught me as I was about to leave with two of my books, Devourer and Execution Force. He asked for my signature. Caught off guard, I signed, wrote some phrases that bubbled up from memory. I was taken completely aback, a reminder of a bygone age and that I yet have fans.

Thank you, Franklin for the reminder and the honor.

In Support of Books

I wrote this letter and sent it tonight to my local and state officials because somehow books are under threat in 2023.

Good Evening,

I am a citizen and registered voter. I write to you today in defense of the written word. As books cannot speak for themselves in living voices, I will write in their support.

Books are objects of wonder. They whisper to our minds with new ideas, new viewpoints, characters, and histories that sweep us to new worlds. We live in a free marketplace of ideas built on the backs of books. Ancient and modern, we learn new ways of thinking and new perspectives through books. Books give us an escape from the horrors of the world. They offer us new modes of thinking. They give us shining examples of heroes, of what right and wrong look like, of ethics and philosophy, or just a comforting voice in trying times. They provide answers beyond those shouted by polarizing social media, promoted by greedy companies, or sleazed by self-serving politicians.

I have been an avid reader since I was a child. Somehow, in 2023, book bans are spreading like cancer through our great, messy nation. This cannot be allowed to continue.

If your ideas and beliefs are threatened by books, it is not time to ban those books. It is time to read more books. Or write your own.  Our libraries should not be divested of books. They deserve greater funding to contain these wondrous objects, greater funding to hire librarians to shepherd them, and greater funding to expand spaces to promote the discovery of books. If you support books, I will support you. If you oppose books, I will vote for someone else.

I hope you will oppose book bans and support libraries.

Thank you and I hope this letter finds you well.

Kind Regards,

Joseph Parrino

The Only Demanded Courage

I came across this quote tonight that really resonated with where I feel my life is now.

That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.

The quote comes from Rainer Maria Rilke. The rest of the article is also worth a read from a philosophy blog I really enjoy. If you’re interested, it can be found here at the Marginalian .

Data is Beautiful

I published my raw sales numbers here a few months ago and I’ve turned it into a snazzy looking table full of digits. I crunched some more numbers (go ahead and picture that little number crunching machine) and prettied up the table before I go to a writer thing this weekend in my continuing quest to find an agent. Here’s the table with more data.

Holy fucking shitballs.

I never knew a spreadsheet full of numbers could be so beautiful. My sold copies, at their current prices pulled straight from the publisher’s website, have resulted in total sales of roughly USD 900,000. That’s nuts. Hopefully, an agent finds those numbers as wonderful as I do.

I could not have reached these heights without you brilliant readers. I am so grateful and humbled by your support and interest in my words. I hope to have more for you soon.

Wish me luck, O Ye Wise, Faithful, and Invisible Crowd.

Lifetime Sales Figures

On Friday, I received my semi-annual royalties statement. The document contains my lifetime sales figures for all my stories published by Black Library. I thought, after doing basic data analysis professionally, to throw them into a spreadsheet to see them all together. I was shocked to see my sales volume. One novella, Shield of Baal: Devourer, sold 28,267 copies. In writing, as in so much else, I have been plagued by doubts. These figures are ammunition against those doubts.

This is probably small potatoes across the publishing world, but it means a lot to me to see just how many times my stories have sold. I am deeply humbled and grateful to all those out there who took a chance on my stories and paid money to read my words.

The Chart

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.

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