Monday, 29 March 2010

Viking Treasures at the Ashmoleon Museum, Oxford:

At long last I can finally show you the few select treasures of the Viking Era on display at the Ashmoleon Museum which I and my boss Terry visited last Thursday when on a morning training trip to the city of Oxford.

Two genuine silver arm rings - used  to hack into silver pieces for trade or as marks of honour in battle.

A true Vikings Sword remarkably preserved whole. Would have been a fine weapon 1000 years ago.

A RuneStone, given to the owners of the Museum in 1687 by an artistcrat from Sweden.
I could recognise several of the spiritual runes in this engraving although to interpret it into actual words was impossible for me. I do not know if it was the properieters or the original engraver who highlighted the runes in red and the entwining design in black. But it looks amazing. Read below for the actual interpretation:

The Ashmoleon Museum in Oxford is entirely free and full of loads of historical finds, artefacts and more ranging through all kinds of eras.

So if you are ever on a holiday down south please do take the time to visit the Museum and see its many wonders for yourself.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

From one Viking Author to another - A writers sword and shield - Valkyrian Ventures Part 4 Sneak peak

Well my passion for books and love of viking historial fiction got the better of me yesterday when I visited our local Waterstones book shop in town.

I only wanted the new Robert Low book 'Prow Beast' but whilst I did find that I also came across a new comer onto the scene of historical viking fiction.

His name is Giles Kristian, who has proper viking hertitage running in his viens from his Norwegian Mother's side and his first book which has got great acclaim from Robert Low and the master of historical fiction Bernard Cornwell, is titled 'Raven: Blood Eye'.

So I got two great viking books when I only wanted one! Just shows how Vikings are making a HUGE come back onto the minds of us all and showing everyone that they're not just murdering raping raiders.

In honour of this fantastic surge on my favourite topic I am going to reveal my all time favourite and highly recommended books from this genre (although many people still debate whether it is a genre at all).

Author - Bernard Cornwell
Books - Saxon Stories (The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, The Lords of the North, Sword Song and Burned Land)

Author - Tim Severin
Books - Viking Trilogy (Odinn's Child, Sworn Brother and Kings Man)

Author - Robert Low
Books - Oathsworn Series (The Whale Road, The Wolf Sea, The White Raven and The Prow Beast)

*Brand New* Author - Giles Kristian
Books - Raven Series (Raven: Blood Eye and Raven: Sons of Thunder)

But for those of you like me who like a bit of magic in our stories there is still some good viking themed ones out there. I recommend:

Author - Betsy Tobin
Book - Ice Land

Author - Joanne Harris
Book - Runemarks

Author - Neil Gaiman
Book - Odd and The Ice Giants

Hope you viking loving fans out there can get your hands on these books because they are truly brilliant at capturing the humanity, loyalty and bravery of the Vikings that society and education so often seems to glance over. Plus the fantasy ones weave norse mythology so well particularly Runemarks which is drenched in norse mythology although it's set in a fantasy world.

You can find links to most of these authors in my Creative Connections section if you would like more details on the books as well as availability. Just look under 'Valkyrian Sanctum Quarters' to the right.

Now as a writing is a craft any writer needs a set of tools. Besides the always needed pen and paper there are also 2 resources many published authors claim every writer should have:

I now have both! muwahahahaaha!
Millions of agents, writers, magazines, photographers and more are at my finger tips.
These two large blocks of contacts, guidance and advice are the strength and razor sharp edge behind every writers sword and shield.
I intend to use them a lot more for guidance and research whilst I continue to work on my Valkyrian Ventures which is looking more and more likely to become a novel (although how long I can't say.)

I must admitt whilst I was in Waterstones I was surprised by how the new genres of Dark Romance and Dark Fantasy had taken off. They now have whole sections full of books in that style.
It made me think where my own story would fit in if I ever get published. Thing is my story contains strong elements of fantasy but it is also similar to most books in Dark Fantasy (basically more modern gothic tales) in that it has mythical figures (from a proper religion mythology and the stereotypical myth of werewolves and vampires). So it kind of sits between them at present.
It is a tricky question every writer should ask themselves as they may not get published if they have no clear place on a booksellers shelf.

Speaking of Valkyrian Ventures I'm 2 pages in to Part 4 now titled 'Know Thy Enemy' and it is getting rather exciting from the start off.

So to get you interested and any regulars that have read Parts 1-3 here is a sneaky taste of what's to come in Part 4.

Hope you enjoy and do leave me any comments to let me know what you think. All criticism is greatly appreciated as long as its constructive.

There was a lot of movement occurring at Lendal Bridge landing and it wasn’t from the magpies which had now swooped down to perch on its railings. The movement was under the water. It was like a Kraken lay in the river bed thrashing, lashing and twisting. Churning and tossing the water with immense force. The spray didn’t seem to bother the magpies who fanned out their wings, perked up their tails and cried out even louder. After what felt like the build up to a volcanic eruption something small and white emerged from the bubbling froth of the river Ouse. It was a skull, a skull with horns, sharp teeth and red eyes. What at first I thought was its neck became longer, thicker and wider until it was clear what I was seeing was Hel’s personal longboat emerge from the Underworld, Nagilfar. It shone with equal brightness of the moon, for it was made of many millennia’s worth of toe nail clippings gathered from those dead and buried when their families had not done so.

“Look how she mimics the All-Father.” Geirölul whispered, pointing out the magpies now flying in circles over the longboat before settling beside a black shrouded figure sat upon a chair beneath a red pavilion deck. “Magpies doing a Ravens job. You’d think she would get enough gossip from her darklings. I reckon she does it just for performance.”

The mention of darklings, what we nicknamed dark elves who work for Hel, I felt my stomach tense as a flash of a thought popped into my head. Would Jake be with Hel? Is that why he hasn’t surfaced for six months since he led Kate into the trap that destroyed her?

It was then that I heard a new sound but a sound I was familiar with on a smaller scale. Now that the water was calm and the magpies were silent, the endless sighs, cries, moans and groans of tortured souls tainted my ears.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Harald Hardrada, Vikings vs Indians,Viking Crusaders, Vikings vs Dragons and Vikings alive today???

Today I'm going to review a fair few viking orientated things - that of 2 books and 3 films (1 released ages ago and the two others soon be released). Showing how various ways Vikings have been portrayed to the masses with history as a background. And my thoughts on how successful or badly they did the Viking culture, history and heritage justice.

First up is a book titled 'Crusader Gold' by David Gibbins.

This was leant to be a colleague at work as she knows I love anything to do with Vikings. Now to be honest, when I read the blurb at the back it didn't really attract much interest from me. And in the end I only read it because I had nothing else left to read.
But boy was that a mistake!
Because at first the involvement of anything Vikingy isn't apparent in the blurb and isn't really apparent either at the start until characters go over in a fairly easy and natural way, the history behind the Varangian Guards at Constantinople. That is where we are introduced to Harald Hardrada, the man before he became King of Norway.
It emerges Harald Hardrada was a renowned Varangian Guard who served the Holy Emporer of Constantinople and during such times when the Emporer died also parttaked in the ritualistic looting of the palace as part of their payment for serving him in life.
That is where somehow the Holy Jewish Menorah gets mixed in, not to mention a longship frozen since the early 10th century in the Greenland icecap, L'anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, another ancient civilisation and of course the one ingredient every thriller must have a - an ancient cult gone bad.
And that's all I'm going to say on this book as you really must read it for yourself to discover how good it is.

Next up in my Viking rant is to do with a film what was released a fair while ago now, at least a year at any rate and it's name is Pathfinder.
Now the title doesn't really say a lot for the whole plot behind the story but the oh so misused image of a horned helmet should indicate the subject. Although the setting is now what you expect and niether is the over all character arc and finale.
Basically, for those of you who know little Viking historic facts it was the Vikings who FIRST DISCOVERED NORTH AMERICA! Yep! I don't lie! They came across it after hopping on boats from Iceland to Greenland and then further West past Canada into what they called 'Vinland' due to the fruit laden vines they found. However they did not come across a barren land where they could settle like Iceland. Oh no.
Native American Indians were there and they put up a hell of a fight.
Imagine you're a Viking Warrior, kitted out in fine chain mail and plate armour with a thick shield and a sharp sword yet your constantly being ambushed and overwhelmed by natives wearing a lot less and only using spears and arrows?
I have to say I fear the Vikings that met the natives felt a lot more embarassed then their fellows at the defeat of Stamford Bridge in 1066.
But that's what happened, despite all the fertile lands for the taking the Vikings couldn't be tolerated or tolerate the locals and eventually left never to return.
Yet 'Pathfinder's story begins when the Viking explorers first came across this land and it runs along the lines of if one poor your norse lad got stuck after his father and group were killed by indians. What would happen to him and his identity if he got raised by one? And more critically, what would he do if the Vikings ever returned to pillage, burn and plunder the society he grew up in? The image above does kind of give a hint. There is lots of action, blood and gore and although the Vikings come across as rather fearal and cruel beasts the nature of the character of Pathfinder and his performance in battle kind of shows their better side.

Third up in my ramble is a book I discovered in the latter half of last year.
'The Last Vikings' written by a guy called Simon Grey who actually does historic walks through the great city of York. And apparently it is the old names of the streets and their history which inspired him to write this book, one of a current collection of two. I've read the second but I'm still unsure if there will be a third.
It is essentially a young childs book as I did only find it in the 11-13 age section of Waterstones and that was after asking a member of staff. But I was encouraged by the lady herself as she had read them and enjoyed them equally with her young son who is in fact 15.
The over all story is set in York (where else!) and is to do with the mythical goings on and possibilities occuring if ancestors of the Viking inhabitants of Jorvik did actually survive. How did they live? Where did they live? How do they avoid the masses? How come they haven't been discovered for 1000 years??? And what happens when one human boy gets muddled up in this deception?
Of course a big dollop of magic, a touch of norse mythology and a strange scattering of Trolls somehow pull the plot together to help young minds believe and understand. I personally found the characters a bit too predictible, maybe even sterotypical and certainly flat in places but I am reading with an adult mind having read far more detailed and deep stories where magic isn't the answer to everything. Yet I enjoyed the charm of the way it was told and I loved the small hand sketches showing the scenes and the map that comes in each group showing the 'secret snickleways' that are ACTUAL streets fascinating and a treat. But a great way to recapture young minds on the subject of Vikings and how they weren't all big meanies with axes and horned helmets.

Now my second two topics will be rather brief discussions as they are 2 unique and very different films which aren't released yet. They are:

(How to Train Your Dragon 26.03.10)     and
               (Valhalla Rising 30.04.10)

<----And YES that is me in my entire Viking gear cloak an all with the author of the book behind the film - Cressida Cowell. I even politely mentioned that I write about vikings but on the mythology side of things. I did get her to sign a copy of the book but I have yet to read it and once I have I will give it a review.

Now as you can tell these two films are extremely different. One is very clearly a child friendly family even 3D movie with fantasy, dragons and magic involved. The other is very grown up, brutal, harsh, even cruel to witness as it deals with the harsh reality although some say the setting itself has no clear marker so it could just be a nasty fantasy thing going on.

'How to Train Your Dragon' centres around the character aptly titled Hiccup who is the son of a Viking chieftan whose people are at war with dragons. Hiccup, in order to join the ranks of men has to slay one. Of course, the opposite happens and a great adventure about finding ones true identity etc evolves out of it. The book the film is based on is actually the first of an entire series around Hiccup and his many various viking oriented adventures. So if this movie proves to be a success we may see more of Hiccup.

'Valhalla Rising' centres on a very mysterious figure known as One Eye and know he is nothing like Odin apart from in his battle crazy state because he is a brilliant warrior and fights his way out of slavery and stumbles into this group of Norse Christian warriors trying to set sail for the Holy Land on pilgrimage to save Jerusalem. YES, that's correct and actually historically so for in the time of Harald Hardrada, when he was a Varangian Guard, Christianity was starting to spread. And even Harald himself went and freed Jerusalem, even placed a special gift given by the emporer at one of the holy site when it was taken. So even in those early days Crusades of a kind were well underway. However One Eye does not turn out to be the best peice of luck they stumble across for as they journey onwards with him One Eye experiences even bloodier visions and they end up arriving somewhere after a mist filled night and more blood spilt soon follows. But I shall leave you all to find out whose for even I don't know, as it doesn't release at UK cinemas until the end of April.

So there you have it - rant complete.
Shows how in many mediums Viking influences the imagination still for everything I reviewed is in the end fiction but with history throne in to make it more interesting. For they all take their own stance, all a unique and different view of vikings emerges and maybe a tiny bit more understanding to break the 'heathen' image branded on them by monks 1000 years ago.

And in a way it kind of sums up the reasons behind why I write what I write. After all, a brilliant way to understand a culture and its people is to get to know and explore their beliefs. Which is why I focus on norse mythology to use in my stories.

Hope you've enjoyed my rather lengthly rant and feel free to share your feelings with me about the Viking culture, people and history. But note that all malicious, nasty and unconstructive comments will be immediatly removed.

Monday, 22 March 2010

If you go down to the woods today....what will you see? Future growth or fading History?

Well that's what me and my BF plus my BM Millie did yesterday when for one long day it felt like spring had truly arrived with gentle winds, warm sunshine and all the birdies singing in the trees.

So after a very lazy morning (didn't wake up till 12! shock horror) we got our butts moving, quickly made a pack lunch and walked briskly through the park into town to catch the next available Storthes Hall Bus to visit my beloved Bluebell Woods.

Once there we met up with my BM Millie and walked through the woods, enjoying the sunshine, listening to the Blackbirds and Bullfinches sing until we came across a sight that truly made me shiver.

Now some of you may recall me mentioning Ravensknowle/Keepers Farm, a derelict ancient building located on Storthes Hall Diggs Campus where I lived for my 1st and 2nd year at Uni. It's found just off a little track in Bluebell Woods. Now from the moment I set my eyes on it I have been permenantly curious by its history, its past, the people who lived there etc and I swore to myself that if I ever become rich and famous I will buy the plot and rebuild it.

However, this old house has been more than a curiosity for me, it's also be an idea and inspiration. It features in my first ever ghost story 'As Old As Houses' simply called 'the old farmhouse' although it's obviously it due to the mention of Storthes Hall. In that story, it is threatened with demolishition and has all its trees and bushes which have grown around it for decades probably removed in preparation for its end.

Sadly I believe it is the sight I beheld as the photographs demonstrate.
See the difference? It is the same house I can assure you.
Makes it look even older without the trees and bushes all around it protecting it in a way from the elements. When I was last there part of the roof was still covered by now, the rain can openly wash away the dust and rubble on the top floors. My worst fears in my writing are at least partly coming true for this beautiful old building, as there would be no other reason to remove so much vegetation if not for demolition. I'm still trying to find out the facts and hopefully when so I can attend its sad demise.

To me it's such a sad sight to see, especially after having spent the early days of last summer researching its history to find it has only just turned 150 years old. It's earliest recorded inhabitance being there in 1861! My only dream apart from being a published writer is to restore this old farm house to the way it used be.
(old photograph credited to the Kirklees Digital Archive) When it was lived in  1910.
 To what it's like now.

Doesn't it make you feel sad to see this quaint family home as it used to be to be abandoned and reduced to such a sorry state? It breaks my heart to see such little historic buildings disappear. It's like the landlord of the old tudor beamed pub on York's Shambles leaving it to collapse. That's how strongly I feel for this old house.

I've always known demolition was a realist possibility but I didn't think anyone would ever bother or put effort into it. *long sad sigh of dreams broken*.

Anyway on a slightly brighter note me, my BF and my BM Millie still had a nice little picnic and campfire in the woods, listened to the birds sing, the Pheasants call out amongst the trees and as dusk fell we even were lucky enough to see a Woodpecker flitter from tree to tree around us before vanishing into the night. Oh and the owls twit ta-wooing to each other as they began their nights hunt.

Here's me with my pen and travel notebook, wondering by the firelight that if I write a story of Ravensknowle's survival maye my worst fears of its demise won't come true.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Spearing a problem, colourful crocuses and beautiful blackbird

Well this week has been a tough one for me due the boss leaving for a long weekend with husband which meant I was in charge of the Library Thursday afternoon all by MYSELF! Now you would think that all the new students who've been with us since September would know the rules by now but no. They just continue to break them in various ways meaning I have to repeatedly tell them off and hope they learn their lesson. Sadly a rare thing in our little college.

Although typically the day my boss leaves is the day everything goes wrong.
1) Library became an oven due to the huge numbers we had in during the day (I counted 100 at 1pm when I was alone).
2) I had to give a show n tell sessions to a group leaving the front desk unmanned.
3) Whilst with said group those students didn't listen at all well so I was always interrupted with the questions 'where do you click that miss? or I can't see it miss? or miss my PC isn't working?' Even though I said for them all to stop and watch until I've finished.
4) Whilst sorting out said technical problems chaos reigned and impatient students at desk left unhappy.
5) Continuous rule breakers kept breaking the rules no matter how many times I told them not to and threatened them with a ban.

That afternoon was possibly equally as stressful as the day my boss was so late I manned the Library by myself from 8.30 - 2.35! Missing lunch in the process!

The only way I could regain my senses was to have my first hot bubble bath in ten years and pamper myself with all the goodies in my bath cupboards

Thankfully hearing this little chap made my week at the end of all the stress.

As well as this little fella.

I'm sure you will agree anyone to listen to these feathery beauties sing so loud, clear and at such close quaters should feel blessed and priviliged to hear such sweet signs of spring.

And this fairy like visition of spring colour proves that despite all the miserable rain we have had today and the fact the temperature this week has constantly been above 5 degrees celsius shows that Spring has indeed finally won over Winter who made a strong come back to these parts.

A spring fairy circile of crocuses purple, yellow and white with a few gems of Snowdrops marking the giving way of the seasons.

Now this weekend as it's been raining all day I've actually made a start on writing Valkyrian Ventures Part 4 - title still to be decided - and immediatly I hit upon a problem apparently common with budding writers like myself (and this is me admitting I'm still very much an amateur despite my part degree in creative writing.)

And the problem is this - 'write what you know not what you don't know.' A famously repeated writing saying.

How does this affect me?

Well my characters are Valkyries and I'm depicting them as they have often been imagined - in that they use and carry spears.

So the problem goes like this - how can I write a single combat battle seen with my protoganist using spears when I have no experience of using one myself?

I've already tried to be clever and write a breif description of what I can imagen her doing but when I have a go at mimicking my words using my rather tall staff I can see that my words lack an genuine thought or experience in this subject.

So following my BF's advice I scowered YouTube for videos on spear fighting and yes there were some good examples of how its used to jab mainly and block - not the fancy twirly whirly thing I imagined. The problem still remains though on how to put that into writing.

But don't worry I'm not going to give us just because of this small snag in my skill and experience as a writer. I will just have to educate myself, do my research and try putting pen to paper to get it right. Besides, as soon as I began writing before I hit this challenge, I could feel the story take over me, reminding me that this is a story that needs to be told. So is worth every drop of effort, persistance and time to do it and do it right.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Runic writing, Viking Ghosts and Spreading my writing wings!

After much thought over how to make my blogs logo I went back to basics with only using the words Valkyrian Sanctum but of course I must find the right font to hint at what my blog is all about (mainly vikings, mythology, writing and creativity - oh not to mention my Valkyrian Ventures). After recalling a website that my boyfriend recommended for unusual fonts for all sorts I trailed through their Medieval section and came across one font that suits these two words beautifully.

The font I finally chose is rather aptly name Yggdrasil and made by a danish man with the nickname Pizzadude. I think it looks very cool and suits my themes and topics well. Looks very runic and yet it still readable. That was the main concern, as there was a proper Futhark Runes font but unless you knew the Furthark alphabet you wouldn't make heads or tails of it. So I've email this off to Michael along with my own author profile hopefully for acceptance to be featured on the Dismorphia website and it's newsletter the Viking Chronicle.

I'll provide link and screen shot of my little extra claim to fame as soon as he gives me the thumbs up.

I've also been busy reading a lot during my breaks at work - mainly my Writing Magazines which I have now finally cleared the lot from 2009 and have started January 2010 issue. Only 3 more to go ha ha. Plus I've been eating page after page of a book called 'Crusader Gold' by David Gibbins which is a great history thriller involving Vikings, the Menorah, the Crusades and an ancient sect. It's very, very, very good! Only started it on Friday and I'm already 3/4 way through! Will give a lovely big review when I'm done as long as the ending doesn't disappoint.

I have made some small progress with writing in that I've set myself up for another fall by submitting my viking ghost story 'As Old As Houses' to the Writing Magazines Ghost Story competition. If I don't hear a thing in two months I know it's another failure.

But I'm still hoping I will go through all the rotten egg stories before I write a golden award winning one that agents and publishers will be chasing me for hehehehe. I am intending on making my Valkyrian Ventures such a show a talent and promise.

Hopefully when I begin attending a Creative Writing Workshop thats being set up in the Square Chapel in Halifax at the start of April having fellow writers to bounce ideas off and tell me where I'm going wrong I'll start writing some proper good stuff and improve the quality of content in my Valkyrian Ventures a lot more. They are still pretty much first drafts at present but it shows the general plot and characters I'm trying to tell.

Reliving the 5th annual Huddersfield Literature Festival

The word 'busy' does not really apply to my hectic lifestyle for the past week and a half. Ever since World Book Day it's been none stop in the Library which leaves me knackered every time I get to the flat which in turn makes me vulnerable to my strongest weakness - being lazy in front of the TV all evening. Which did happen for some of the week although I am pleased to say not all for last week on Wednesday 10th March 2010 the 5th annual Huddersfield Literature Festival began! And because I was taught by the Festival Director and the genius that is Michael Stewart I was able to attend at least 2 events completely free hehehe.

The first was Michael Stewart's Master Class to Short Fiction which most of was a refresher course for me as he'd taught me the same stuff back when I was at Uni (nearly a year ago now) but it was nice to be reminded and have my creative knowledge tested. Thankfully he didn't pick on me to answer any of his open questions etc and the audience were anticipating strongly anyway regardless. Some of the audience were in fact 10 of my creative writing enrichment students who due to my endless promotion of the Literature Festival got the chance to come along and learn from the best. I myself was invited to go with them and my lovely boss Terry, always keen to encourage my little writing talent, agreed to let me go for the afternoon with the group.

Afterwards I assisted as an unofficial photographer for two students in the group who were part of the Journalism enrichment group who wanted to interview Michael and because it's me who asked he complied hehehe. So they spent a nice ten minutes asking him about how he got into writing, what he writes, what books he likes and what the festival has to offer young people.

Once their interview was over I made my way to the nearest nicest pub in town which was 'The Lord Wilson' (ironically using my surname) which was based directly opposite the Uni tosit, read and have myself a nice tea (scampi and chips yum yum) until 6pm when I would meet up with Terry (my boss) at the Train Station and walk the short distance the elusive and exclusive Peacock Lounge for the Huddersfield Literature Festival Launch event. Also where the winners from the Less Is More Short Fiction and Poetry writing competition run by the Festival will be announced. It was slightly sad having not even made it into the short list myself for my shorter and very different version of my valkyrie story 'I Am No Angel' but I was keen to learn what kind of talent I was up against.

Whilst we waited as the crowd gathered in we were dined upon by lovely festival attendants serving mini quiches and Terry was exteremly happy with her bowl of salted dried broadbeans. It was a very pleasant atmosphere against the chic patterened walled seating, the black seats and delicate tea lights illuminating eager faces.

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for - who beat me to my first chance at proper fame and being published! No, no, I joke, these winners do genuinely deserve it in fact Michael said even the runners up were that good that they too will be included in the Grist Anthology when it is published next year. Beating the many thousands that will enter Grist's own writing competition which opens again at the end of May.

David Gill (Short Fiction judge) and Gaia Holmes (Short Poetry judge) announcing the winners.

Writer Mark Ellis recieving his 3rd Place prize for his short story 'Sometimes I Think That If I Start Cryin I ain't Gonna Stop'.

Steven Maxwell won 2nd Place prize for his story 'Earth: A Review' but was too far away to make it there that night.

And 1st Place goes to Jenny Oliver for her story 'Chloe'.

Prizes in the Poetry section go to:

                  3rd Place went to Rosie Blog and her poem 'Tramps'. Sadly she entered from a distance away so couldn't make it either.

2nd Place Poetry winner Julia Decan for her poem 'Presence'.

1st Place Winner is Jackie Tarletan for her very short poem '3am Phone Call.'

So there you have them, the 6 lucky winners from over 600 entries from all across the country who won a small cash prize and pride of place in the future Grist Anthology of New Writing.

After they had all briefly read the entire or an extract of their winning entries an entirely different character graced the stage before us all. Michael discribed her as 'a singer, a celloist and a serial killer.' And her name was Ruby Honeycut Corsett.

This very intriguing and humorous character has the persona of a wealthy aristrocatic lady owning lands and servants (who she makes many references to, in particular one where they tried chopping a girls arm and a leg off to see if it indeed did elevate her in social standing hehehe) but a woman who also has a peculiar addiction to blood, gore, murder and avoiding the police. All this is shown in her songs. My particular favourite is the one about how after being kilted by her love she murders him and uses the lines 'you look so beautiful in my bodybag.'

And so my night with the Literature Festival fun ended as I did not intend to stay for the after party due to being up at 6am the next morning for work. But it was a jolly good night had by all, in particular the lucky winners who out wrote me yet again.

One day I'll make it. One day I will win muwahahahahahhaa!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

World Book Day 2010, Valkyrie Sanctum designs, books and Huddersfield Literature Festival 2010!

Well it's been a very busy week for me in the a very literary but also creative manner.

Due to my work at the Library I rediscovered my excitement for World Book Day which I hadn't really experienced since I left secondary school soooo many years ago now.

World Book Day occured this year on Thursday 4th March 2010 and in preparation and celebration of that date me and my boss Terry held several short reader interviews with students and staff to find out what books made them laugh, cry, what was their favourite when they were children and what they're reading now. Nice to say each one gave a great range of answers and it was interesting not only to find out which books affected who in what way but also their reading tastes. We then blew these interviews along with photographs into large posters and put them up on a large notice board both inside and outside the Library.

We also put out a random selection of books from a range of genres, both fiction and non-fiction - in order to tempt the inner bookworm in all of our students. Although a teacher was one who got curious the most.

I've also been designing some more logo's/symbols to represent my blog and as you may have noticed I've changed the colour scheme recently, mainly less purple so it's a bit brighter but I am keen to revamp the whole thing. I want mainly a page header that actually fits across the top that uses text and images better so the text is more easy to read as sadly no matter which colour I put my title in white is the only one that you can read nearly clearly against the variety of pictures I've used. Currently I'm working on an intricate and more mythical design where the 'V' is formed by two long spears with their tips meeting in the middle and the 'S' is the Midgard Serpent entwined in and out of the 'V'. At the moment it's all still in pencil as I try to bulk it out and add detail but once the over all design is finished and in colour I'll photograph it to put up on here for you to see.

I'm still whittling my way through my backlog of Writing Magazine issues, currently half way through December 2009 so just got January, February, March and now April (which has just arrived) but it's making me feel better about my writing with each debut author profile I read or interesting article. I've also just finished reading a Douglas Adam novel 'The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul' which was good until the last few pages where its chaotic nature finally ruined it in the manner that I didn't realise the story had ended  until there was nothing left to read. However I did like the portrayals of Odin, Thor and Valhalla and the character Toe Rag is definitely based on Loki. But sadly the ending itself was a mess of unfinished ends I felt, somehow all the twists and turns throughout the novel didn't really come to a fulfulling end. My next book is one lent by another colleague Judith titled 'Crusaders Gold' by someone I can't remember the name of. It's a thriller to do with history and something to do with the Holy Menorah and Vikings. It's the viking bit I'm interested in but already read the first few pages and it is good so far. I've got a few more books to read after that, in particular one titled 'The  Real Middle  Earth - Magic and Mystery in Medieval England' which was lent by a friendly history teacher who knows I'm into that era. You can see which books I've read, liked or disliked and what I'm reading at present and will be in the future by visiting my Virtual Bookshelf on . Set up one of yourself it's entirely free and rather coool.

Now I come to the most recent developement which is to begin tomorrow which is the 5th annual Huddersfield Literature Festival.

However I am sad to say I didn't make it onto the Fiction Short List with my shorter and rewritten version 'I am No Angel' but I am trying not to be selfish about it by going along anyway to find out how much competition I was up against. You can read the short listed winners at .Yet I am still getting some writing goodness out of this as I am invited to attend Michael Stewart's Short Fiction Workshop tomorrow afternoon with a group of students from the college I work with. Not only was Michael my former tutor and writing mentor but he has been a strong player in organsing much of the Festival and is the genius behind the Grist Anthology of New Writing (that competition opens in May - for more details visit ). His workshop will be a nice boost and reminder about all the essential rules about writing fiction which he taught me for 3 years. Although I still remember the main and most important one 'Show don't Tell'. I'll be taking my camera along for some memory photographs and to assist with two students from the College Magazine group who are also attending and doing a short interview with Michael/

My main fun will be in the Festival Open Evening at the Peacock Lounge later that same night where the winners from the Festival Writing Competition will be announced. Me, my boss Terry and Ellie who teaches the magazine group are going and we're hoping it will be an enjoyable night hearing from the winners of the competition.

So hopefully after tomorrow night I'll have lots more to show and tell with photographs and gossip from the big opening night.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Creative change in the spring breeze:

Well my creative juices are flowing again and I have this sudden urge for a complete makeover on Blogspot as my Wordpress blog actually looks cooler and more mystical than this one despite my pictured banner. So I've been trailing through the internet haystack trying to find the golden needle template that suits my tastes, interests and stories. Below are just a few of the nicer ones I've found but I'm not entirely convinced of using just yet so any feedback would be grateful as of course it would mean a big change for the layout of content etc affecting you - my readers.

Wandering Angel (I'm liking the sketch as outfit and wings match a Valkyries style)

Complicated Girl (colourful but no hint of anything mystical or magical)

No Such Angel (slightly more along my characters profile although she doesn't use guns.)

Winged Girl (again more colourful and modern, nothing mythical)

Angelic Blessing (I am loving this great big celtic angel design, she looks pretty impressive in a Valkyrie manner except content is kept in quite narrow boxes beneath this nice but huge image.)

On a simpler note my lovely and very generous and supportive friend Michael at has been requesting I start thinking of images or symbols to use for my blog banner/logo so I've been doodling away and here are two (sadly too extravagant for a small rectangle on a webpage) ideas I've come up with.

A Valkyrie's wings, head, roundshield and spear help make up the letters (in purple) V and S that are the initials of my Valkyrian Sanctum.

This is a second version just using spears and roundshields to form the V and the S.
As mentioned though I think these are slightly on the big side for what Michael has in mind for my blog banner/logo but their quite funky symbols that represent my blog as a starting point at any rate.
I'm still thinking up ideas which of course will be shown here once sketched out onto paper.
Still haven't gotten round to starting Valkryian Ventures Part 4 and I think it's mainly becuase I'm still trying to come up with a tag line that catches peoples attention and gives little curious hints to what I write about. For example Stephanie Meyer's Twilight tag line is 'When you can live forever, what do you live for? referring to the vampires immortality and the problems that come with it. And J.K Rowling's is 'Harry Potter, the boy who lived' of course because he is meant to be dead from his encounter with you-know-who. I am trying to come up with one for mine that deals with death, dead, souls, gods, valkyries etc. Michael said this would be the hardest thing to do and it is. Any writer finds writing a blurb of their novel hard enough but trying to sum the whole idea behind the story up in one line that makes people want to read it to learn more is even harder.

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