Thursday, 7 August 2014

Thorsday Thunder - Lightening, lightening and more lightening! (2014 Year of the Viking Special)

As we build up to the latest and currently last (need more history events please!) features in my 2014 Year of the Viking blog post series, involving the third talk from Jorvik DIG on Vikings in Normandy and History Live 2014 with Giles Kristian (author of Raven Bloodeye/Sons of Thunder/Odin's Wolves/God of Vengeance). I am going to take a slight detour but it is still pretty much viking orientated.

This particular event happened after my final Jorvik DIG talk and occured the Friday night before attending History Live 2014 and this event was one pretty much the whole country experienced in one form or another that weekend, it was entirely free to watch and was....of course....the freaky power of the masses of UK Thunder Storms!

I was staying with a relative in Northamptonshire, not far from Kelmarsh Hall where History Live takes place and at around 10.30ish pm Friday night, the skies went black, the thunder rolled and crazy lightening adorned the skies above. It was AWESOME! 

Thankfully I had the clever idea to film it all with the intention of watching it all back and taking snapshots of the light show Thor put on for us all, (I believe it was Thor giving his blessing to Giles Kristian who was making another appearance at History Live). Yet when I got home after a very fun weekend of being wet with rain for half a day then wet with sweat from intense heat the other half, (more details to come in a future post) my Fiance showed me a magic trick on the computer - how to slow down the video milisecond by milisecond frame and take snapshots of each bit of lightening I saw.

Well at first all I saw was glows in the clouds, pretty but not as cool as actual lightening, and then...with each frame I went through, I discovered lightening bolts, lightening forks, sheet lightening, triple forked lightening and basically more and more lightening! 

Thor had indeed put on a spectacular show of power and light that stormy night.

I was so excited and impressed by what I had caught that I quickly mastered a simple video programme to put all the snapshots of frames into a video montage with a quite near perfect soundtrack.

Please watch and behold the power of the mightiest God in Asgard - THOR!

 

I also dedicate this video and the joy it creates to my fav viking author Giles Kristian - for without his presence Thor might not have been as happy as he was to remind us all why he rules the thunderclouds.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Terrific Tyrs-day Tale Time - Brand new writing - brand new story! *special sneak peak*

Introducing my first serious attempt at 'writing' for the first time after a 3 year book-addiction distraction and other things.

HUGE THANKS to my fav author Giles Kristian and newly discovered author Michael Jecks for their support and encouragement which has genuinely helped kickstart my imagination and writing again.

No working title as of yet - and no genuine idea where this spark of inspiration has come from.

Enjoy but please remember still a very rough work in progress (no idea if it will lead to a novel let alone an ending)

***

Clara’s screams of pain rippled through her bedroom door, trembled around the corridor and shook her mother awake. For the sixth time in a month. Her mother did not rush to her daughter’s side as she had done the first time these diagnosed ‘Night Terrors’ occurred.
When she entered Clara’s bedroom she found the now normal disarray. Bed sheets twisted together tightly within Clara’s grip, as if she might fall to her death if she let go of this self-made rope. Her pillows were wet with tears, her brunette hair dyed darker from the same. Clara’s mouth opening wide, to frequently let out long rib shaking moans of distress. Even from standing in the doorway, her mother could feel a strong heat had gathered within the bedroom, despite her best efforts to keep it cool, by installing the still whirring fan, and have the window open every night. In the vain hope that maybe it was high body temperature causing such upset. Her mother then turned on the bedroom light. Clara sat up in bed, as swift as a jack-in-the-box rising from behind its toy box lid. Her eyes opened after a rapid succession of blinks. Her breathing once loud, harsh and deep settled to a more regular, steady pace.
Clara realised what had happened by simply looking down at her duvet still held within her hands. She immediately cast it aside as if it were a poisonous snake and not a life-saving rope. Only at this stage did her mother quickly gather her into her arms, rubbing her gently, kissing her forehead and whispering the answer to all of life’s problems “It’s going to be ok. I am here.” For the next five minutes Clara trembled with fear and fought off her offending tears with pride, adrenaline from the shock and horror she had witnessed violently invigorating her body. Until inevitably her mother asked her to confess what this particular Night Terror had involved. Like the previous five times Clara’s answer consisted of one word, a pronoun – “Him.”
“Oh baby, you know I’d take it from you if I could.”
“I know, Mum.” Clara’s weakened voice acknowledged her mother’s impossible wish. That was the problem with memories, no one had yet invented a machine that could erase or remove them.
Her mother gave her one big squeeze, brushing damp hair away from damp cheeks. “Let me go get you a drink. It will help you cool down, you’re running a temperature again.”
“Just H20 with ice.” Clara muttered the feeble in-house joke. Her mother responded by giving her a stronger kiss on the head before going downstairs.
Clara, now alone, got up on trembling legs, now covered with goose bumps from the chilled air from the fan and put on her softest dressing gown, seeking comfort. She went to the bathroom and held a cold, soaked flannel to her face, letting the water drip down her chin, down her sweating chest and eventually being absorbed by her pyjamas. Beyond caring whether she was wet or dry. After a minute of just standing still, taking controlled breaths from behind the flannel, she finally looked at herself in the mirror. An emotionally drained twin stared back at her. Face flushed her hair and skin moist from tears and now from cleaner water, moss green eyes, big and red from crying, and the lack of sleep.
The sound of her mother’s footsteps on the stairs caused her to return to her bedroom, feeling stronger the more she recognised its purple walls, familiar bookshelves and her personal objects. Slowly rooting herself back in reality, in the present, in the modern day – removing as much of her mind as she could from the event she had witnessed over ten years ago.
“Here we are, now drink it steady, sip by sip.”
“Thanks Mum.” The cold water gave Clara’s throat shivers and even slight numbness but it was a reviving sensation against the heat of her nightmares. She held the glass tenderly with both hands, hoping her mother didn’t notice they were still shaking.
“Would you like me to sit with you whilst you go back to sleep?” Her mother offered, rearranging the curtains to allow more of the black night air in.
“No, Mum, it’s ok. I might...read for a bit first. Take my mind off it.”
Her mother walked to her dressing table and picked up a medicinal tub of pills. “Well I think we can add these to the failure list can’t we?”
Clara didn’t know whether to feel guilty or not for more money wasted on medication. She feared it would only be a matter of time before her mother suggested seeing a psychiatrist.
“Better than most, the previous lot only lasted one night.”
“True, I will have another word with the chemist tomorrow.” She gave her daughter one final kiss on the forehead. “Hope to see you feeling better in the morning.” She blew another kiss before closing the door behind her.
But Clara didn’t pick one of her many favourite books to read before attempting to sleep. She remained sat on her bed, in silence, feeling an overwhelming helplessness and an immense frustration boiling inside. Feeding the sharp hatred for the cause of all her pain. Him - the man missing from her life, from her family, yet somehow still causing a disturbing influence from beyond the grave. All of it heightened by the one question she would never get any answers to – why now?
Clara wasn’t interested in why he left, she was too young at the time to understand and her mother claimed to not know either, the nucleus of her night terrors seemed to revolve around the question of time.
At the time of the event she was sent to several child therapists, child psychologists and child councillors, and even attended children’s groups where others had witnessed the same horror. But none of it made any visible difference, to everyone who knew the four year old Clara she appeared to cope extremely well with the situation. Of course she was upset, she did cry at the funeral but...nothing more and nothing less. She didn’t seem to have been affected by the manner of his passing, let alone witnessing it, more, the suddenness, of it. After a year of counselling sessions and support group meetings, the family doctor felt secure enough to recommend to Clara’s mother, that she didn’t need the emotional and psychological therapy any more. Since then Clara’s life progressed as normal as best possible, the matter of him only ever being discussed when returning to school and then enrolling at college, and of course mentioned briefly and simply to her best friends and their families in privacy. Yet Clara could not understand her own subconscious enough to even remotely guess why, more than ten years later, her dreams had been replaced with the experience of finding her father hanging from a yew tree in the back garden.
Clara stirred from the fog of her thoughts and pulled out a box from under her bed, lifting it and placing it delicately on top. Unlocking the flip latch she opened it and using both hands emptied the contents before her. Six photographs. This was the total evidence she had that her father had lived at all. Several of them were from the days before Clara was born, when her parents were unmarried. One was a snapshot of them on a beach with friends, another at a work Christmas party and the last was them both standing outside their first house together, their arms holding boxes of belongings. In all three they both seemed happy, living their lives, in love. Nothing wrong. The last three photographs were Clara’s favourite ones with him and her as a baby. One shot was of the three of them in hospital, Clara as a newborn in her mother’s arms and her father sat on the bed with his arm around them both. The second was her father feeding Clara by bottle on the sofa, a big smile on his face. The final photograph was when Clara was four years old, the summer before his death, playing in the sand pit her father had built. He was sat on the edge, digging into the sand with a plastic spade. Clara was busy knocking down a sandcastle he had just built seconds earlier.
Taking this last photograph away from the small collection, she lay down and held it directly over her head, and scrutinized it closely. Trying yet again to bring the memory of that sunny day in the sandpit out of her mind. To hopefully fix that more pleasurable memory in place, like a mental plaster to block out the bad one. Her memory remained blank, empty, void and silent. She shoved the photograph back into the box, fixed the latch in place and pushed it forcefully back under her bed.
“How come the only memory I have is the one I hate?” Clara whispered. This was why she feared being sent to a psychiatrist. The harsh truth was that she couldn’t recall anything about her father when awake and sane, yet when asleep, her subconscious seems to have been suddenly set on replay of that day in October fourteen years ago. No matter what pills she took or bedtime routines she practiced nothing would shift it. She’d tried changing diet, taking supplements, anything to figure out what had triggered these severe night-time flashbacks, nothing had yet been proven to work. She was afraid she was more seriously messed up inside than she believed, which wasn’t the best legacy a father could leave his child.
That was why she had begun to resent him. She had coped with him not being there in her life, in the many significant moments and had accepted that. But she detested the way, as randomly and as suddenly as his suicide, he reached beyond death into her mind and toyed with it. Why can’t he let me relive happier memories? Of course she felt immediately silly for considering and placing any blame on him. He was dead after all, there was no way this was any of his fault directly – just the rather unfortunate way her child psyche had decided to handle and process his death. Bottle it up for fourteen years and then let the more mature Clara manage it.
Sighing she went to the bathroom and washed her face once more, put her dressing gown away and leaving a dim lamp light on she curled up on her bed. Deliberately leaving the duvet off on the floor, allowing the fan’s breeze to blow across her body and keep her cool. She laid facing towards the open window, if she kept her breathing quiet enough she could hear the small breeze entangle the branches of the trees outside, the occasional high pitched shriek or whistle as the roof bats flew past and if she was lucky, the twit and responding twoo of owls out hunting. Familiar night time sounds soothed her, made her feel safe in the low glow of her bedroom lamp. All thoughts eventually grew thin, wispy and smoke-like, forming no-coherent sense or logic, her eyes closed and her mind sank gently, like a feather falling, into a terrible darkness.

A jagged cold wind slapped her face and pulled at her clothes, causing vicious goose bumps to rise large on her arms. Thunder crashed and lightening crackled overhead in churning dark clouds. Yet despite the howling wind and enraged storm, one sound made her cower – the creak and groan of a swinging rope bearing a corpse burden. Autumn leaves tossed and twirled in the chaotic path of the wind as it twisted around the body, stirring the arms and legs like a puppet sways its limbs. The sizzling flashes of lightening gathering overhead illuminated in heartbeats the hanging man, his head bobbing on his chest at a crooked angle. She stumbled forward, an arm raised to protect her face from the natural debris the wind flung at her, until she was able to grab hold of his feet, they were bare and dirty. She bravely looked up, holding on to a hair’s breadth of hope that it wouldn’t be what she already knew. Yet his face remained obscured, the wind pushed his hair across his features and the darkening clouds dimming any light by which she could see. Her body began to shiver as cold rain drops fell from the thunder filled sky and caressed down her bare arms. Her growing chill caused her to realise that the feet of the deceased were still lukewarm to the touch. His body was not yet bone cold.
    “Dad!” She yelled, the sounds of the natural elements growing stronger as if to deny her a voice. As she looked up once more the brightest lightning bolt she had ever witnessed zigzagged across from the centre of the storm and struck the tip of the tree. Arcing along its trunk and branches before alighting on the corpse heavy bough. A force propelled her several feet away, crashing her into bushes and dirt. She lay there, breathless, deaf and almost bind as her senses struggled to regroup, her legs and hands sporadically twitching and jerking. One final peal of thunder boomed so loud its heavenly echo caused the ground to tremble and she finally stirred, managing with what strength she had left to sit up on her knees. She trembled from powerful shade of fear as she beheld the bright glow of the tree on fire. It shone red, amber and gold like a macabre Christmas tree, flames devouring every branch. What little leaves were left was consumed in the blink of an eye. Embers of burning wood filled the now still and silent air around her. The body too hung perfectly still, no longer swaying yet already the floating embers were delicately landing on his open shirt and earth stained trousers, steadily smouldering on the material. Adding small plumes of smoke to entwine around his form, rising upwards past the bright flames and blackening wood to a sky now filled with glistening stars and one full moon.
    Tears began to tumble down her face, tear drop by tear drop as she released a long scream of anguish and despair. Her heart breaking piece by piece as small areas of her father started to burn from embers evolving into flames.
    Suddenly the corpse convulsed, his head nodded on and off his broken neck, his shoulders shook, legs and arms flexed awkwardly and violently. In a further heartbeat it became rigid, arms and legs straight and tightly close together and the head remained erect, eyes open and staring down upon her. His right eye was chalk white, his left eye was a vicious blood red.
    “Nine blood suns. I hung. Nine bone moons. I hung.” An aged male voice that was not her father’s spoke. “One and eight runes. I won. Deaths secrets – knowledge gold. To stop the End of All, as prophecy foretold. All-father sacrificed for man. Thus nine sons for All-Father shall hang.”


The girl’s screams were wild and terrified, her sobs a torrent of immense pain, a harsh vocal expression of her inner confusion and turmoil. An Owl in the nearby trees perched and listened. It’s large, orange eyes observed through lit-up rooms, the older human rush in to comfort the younger one who was lost to her misery. The Owl watched and waited only stirring from its statue still pose when its partner called for it to resume hunting. Giving a gentle hoot in reply the owl swooped low from the tree, it’s wings fanned out on the dark air, it flew away and beyond into shadows and moonlight. 

***
Thank you for reading.


Becky Bookworm Book Review: Iron Castle by Angus Donald (Outlaw Chronicles 6)

The Iron Castle (Outlaw Chronicles)The Iron Castle by Angus Donald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you haven't read any of these Robin Hood novels - go away and read them.

If you have read them - be prepared. You may have thought that Alan went through a hellish ordeal of battle and war in Holy Warrior. You may have thought that Alan and Robin were remarkably lucky to escape and survive in Grail Knight well you will need some calm pills or a fan to cope with the huge amount of high levels of gripping action unlike any other that will increase your stress levels with each life-or-death battle that Alan and Robin must face. Often on a personal and emotional level.

And as the title says it does involve a specific castle and as the cover shows it is going to involve and does a battle not just of sword but of stone and arrows and missiles and fire and a weapon that I have never experienced as deeply as in this book - hunger. If you don't appreciate every litte bit of food you get to eat in the present day compared to the fare Alan and Robin and an army survive on - well all I can say is read it again when on an empty stomach.
Thankfully it is not just a story full of battles but about loyalty, kingship, comrades in arms and honour in the face of all things.

It is another masterfully crafted tale and a fantastic read. Cant wait to see where Robin and Alan go next and whether we will finally encounter the famous beginnings of the Baron's rebellion and the Magna Carter....


View all my reviews

Monday, 4 August 2014

2014 Year of the Viking (Cont.): "Unlocking the Vikings" & Language, Myths & Finds Conference (Part 3/5)

"Unlocking the Vikings"

What we think of them and why in modern context & mediums
1) Author Victoria Whitworth: "First Catch your Viking: Norse narratives for a twenty-first century audience.

Modern viking character is Clever/Strong/Brutal/Violent vs Modern Male Masculinity
- in modern historical fiction there are often a gang of Viking characters that display each of the above qualities.

2) Ruarigh Dale : Frothing Madmen: Depictions of Beserkrs in modern fiction

Beserkers did NOT fight naked - they just removed armour - if they had any.
Not much evidence for animal skins/drugs/hallucigents/shield biting.
Saga evidence involves not a lot of 'frenzy' and the episodes that are recorded are often well before any serious battle/fight/conflict.
Seems to stem from controlled or uncontrolled anger. 

3) Mark Kirwan: Who cares about the Vikings?

Reasons why the Irish liked or disliked or even respected the Vikings - they were warriors/traders/craftsmen/minters(coins)/adventurers/sailors. The Irish also may be touchy about Viking heritage due to the mercinary role in the many battles between the low and high kings of Ireland, changing sides etc.

4) Leszek Gardeta: Vikings reborn: Facets of early medieval reenactment in contemporary Poland 

Modern misconceptions of Viking heritage in slavic heritage. Polish re-enactors work closely and collaborate with scholors and archeologists. Wolin Viking Festival held since 1993 and still going strong. 

5) James Crawford: The evolution of the Outer Hebridean blackhouse 

Isle of Lewis - evolved from long-houses with attached barns into large figure of eight shapes with compartments not rooms. Otherwise known as jellybaby shape :P

6) Thor Ewing: Riddle Gestumblindi: Viking myths and music 

A fantastic example of storytelling enchantment with a classic norse involving riddles, dopplegangers, Kings and Odin accompanied with some excellent harp/bone flute and piphorn playing. I purchased his book of his own adaptation of the norse myths and legends so expect to see a review up soon. 

7) Edmund Southworth: Norse, Celt or English? The view from the Isle of Man 

The Isle of Man IS NOT PART OF THE UK!  Had no influence by Romans or Norman - Phenomenal monumentalism with 200+ stone carvings/sculptures/keels aka crosses - equal to Norway.

8) Tom Birkett: Sea Stallion from Glendalough

Part of the sailing team in 2007 - relatively unexperienced at rowing compared to other recruits. Sailed on it from Roskilde to Dublin. Sea Stallion is a warship not a cargo/trade ship, i.e. a Knarr. During the trip 18,000 gallons of water had to be pumped out of the ship from start to the end of the voyage.

9) Christina Lee: Wicking the Viking - Vikings in German Popular Culture

19th Century saw rise of norse interest - a common belief that norse myth is Germanic whereas the actual people, the Vikings, were percieved as coming from elsewhere in Scandinavia, not Germany. 
  
Language, Myths and Finds Project

LMF is an AHRC Collaborative Skills Development Programme, running from 2013-14. The programme brings together graduate students and full-time researchers from across the UK and Ireland to explore the translation of Norse and Viking cultures into the modern day. Programme participants are working with local partners in five communities with Norse heritage: the Isle of Lewis, Cleveland, the Isle of Man, Dublin and Munster (Cork and Waterford). The programme also draws on the work of the British Museum and participants will draw on the Museum’s ‘Vikings: Life and Legend‘ exhibition as part of their engagement with local communities.

You can download the detailed and colourful booklets as the result of each of the groups work as PDF's using the links below.

Viking Myths and Rituals on the Isle of Man, ed. Leszek Gardeła and Carolyne Larrington
The Vikings in Lewis, ed. Brittany Schorn and Judy Quinn
The Vikings in Munster,ed. Tom Birkett and Christina Lee
The Vikings in Cleveland, ed. Heather O’Donoghue and Pragya Vohra
Viking Age Dublin: Walking Tour and Activity Book, by Rosalind Bonté, Eleanor Jackson, Maria Teresa Ramandi, Elizabeth Ashman Rowe, Rebecca Boyd and Erin Goeres.

***

First off a HUGE NORSEMAN sized Thank You to the very friendly and supportive Judith Jesch, (the same lovely lady I met briefly earlier in the year at BBC History Magazine's Viking Day in Bristol) for informing me of this fantastic two day conference on all the latest Nordic research. She responded to me plea for more vikingy events to attend and so my addition/obsession was satisfied for a few more months in anticipation. It was an amazing conference, learnt soooo much more, met so many awesome and inspiring people and I finally don't feel like the Tigger of the viking fan world - I know there are others like me.

Secondly another a big thank you to the following people who kindly took me, a humble wanna-be-author-valkyrie-jo-blogs-member-of-the-public, under their wing during the weekend and really made me feel welcome and appreciated AND even let me rant on about Vikings for a bit.
 James Aitcheson, author of Sword Sword/Splintered Kingdom/Knight of the Hawk who I fondly think of as a friend following this weekend in his always delightful company.
Ruarigh Dale, for sharing his knowledge and experience of buying cheap 'vikingy' films and more often than not sharing in my disappointment and horror at what some people do to these heroes of ours.
Christina Lee, for although we failed to recognise the other at the conference she always responded to my sometimes many and lengthly twitter convos on vikingy topics. Plus we both share a love for How To Train Your Dragon.
 Victoria Whitworth, author of Bone Thief/Traitors' Pit, for not only hosting the very interesting and engaging and indeed thought provoking character & object writing workshop at the conference but for also taking the time to talk to me, I do appreciate it.

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