Thursday, 29 March 2012

Adventures across the Danelaw (aka Easter Holiday Plans)

The time has finally come for my regular pilgrimage back to the heart of the Danelaw, the great city of Jorvik and spend time with my baby nephew who suprisingly has viking red hair (my father's gene's have skipped a generation hehehe).

My planned raids within the area are first upon Jorvik itself and for good cause as I'm hoping to meet an historical author friend of mine who is visiting the UK (from USA) to see his own family and have his own holiday! His name is Christopher Spellman and he wrote this book (below):

Click here to see my review of his book:

But I'm also currently half way through his second book - which I aim to finish in time for our hopeful meeting :)
The Raven & the Wolf: Chronicle II - Land of Ire

We've been in contact before but when he messaged me on Goodreads telling me he's coming over soon I couldn't help but find out if the dates match my easter holiday break at work and they do! He's travelling up to Scotland with his parents and he intends to visit Jorvik and the Viking Centre again on the way. I told me I live nearby so if we could meet up that would be great and he said he'd love too! Will speak to him over phone via direct call or text/email after the weekend allowing him to adjust to the new time zone etc. So I can't announce any definite details yet but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed and taking both books for him to sign.

Second planned raid is going to occur in Scarborough! Or Escardeburg as it is spelt in the Doomsday Book (1160). The harbour town itself was developed and settled by vikings after the Romans left - the name derives from the old scandinavian name of Skarthi and in my Oxford Dictionary of British Place-names it says "Probably 'stronghold of a man called Skarthi'" This is me when I was last in Scarborough:
At least 2 years ago on a rare summer like day
I am hoping to finally have a chance to visit the Scarborough castle museum and see if they have any artefacts or info about the Vikings settling in Scarborough or at least when King Harald Hardrada of Norway first invaded Scarborough on his final voyage across the north seas. Here is a portrayal of his war fleet landing at Scarborough sands on  the soon to be completed Battle of Fulford Tapestry which I was able to witness up close at this years Jorvik Viking Festival:
Part of the very first few scenes of the Fulford Tapestry.

The third final planned raid will take place at a place that nearly everyone who knows the basics of English history is aware of, a place that has always been more or less on my front door step and a place suprisingly that I haven't been to before despite its significance! I name this place Stamford Bridge - and if you don't know where I mean add the prefix of  'Battle of' and it should go ping in your head.
My dear old Mum who tolerates my overall wierdness and viking madness has agreed to take me out for a day there this easter holiday (she's my driver until I get a car of my own) and she was nice enough the last weekend when I was at home as she drove through it (mainly because other route was blocked by a narrow bridge - no not the bridge in the battle). And I shrieked very literally with delight for not only did I spy a nice stone monument dedication to the battle directly outside the village/town pub BUT also a street sign saying VIKING ROAD!  I am sooooo going to have lots of photographs taken of these cool historical features of the area, and especially that street sign hehehe.

So there you have it, my three targets to raid, pillage and plunder of their vikingy goodness during these easter holidays and so have my own vikingy adventures. So yes, (I know I am saying so a lot) I will have lots to show and tell about upon my return in mid April.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Eirik Bloodaxe by Dr Gareth Williams

Long live the King of Jorvik
Eirik Bloodaxe!

Learn more about his great and famous historical life through blood and battle (and a hint of magic from his wife Gunhildr) by this great little historical account of Eirik Bloodaxe gathered from historical accounts, sagas, poems and records.
Written by Dr Gareth Williams, Coin Expert at the British Museum.

Click on the link to find my review at The Fantasy Guide.com's Viking section - complete with non-fiction history books, norse fantasy books and viking historical fiction! All chosen, recommended and reviewed by me!
 

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Third time lucky - Soul Chaser *potential* book cover design reveal - Possible readers advice invited!

Those of you who 'read' my blog regularly will note that on Wednesday 21st I posted 2 rough designs for a "potential" Soul Chaser book cover - designed by myself, only the font and stars are not my own making -
Version 1 - simple and plain
Version 2 - over elaborate
 Well I can proudly say I do believe the 3rd time is the charm after a further think and redesign I've found a wonderful blend and balance between the two - not too elaborate or simple - in the famous words of Goldilocks, I believe this is just right.
Version 3 - a wonderful blend of 1 +2 - simple and still enchanting

But I want to know what you think of Version 3,
What does it make you think/feel on first glance?
Would it spark your interest if seen in a bookshop/library?
What is it about it that you like?
What is it about it that you don't like?

Only with input from potential readers will I be able to get the design as near to perfect appeal as possible.
So please do leave as any comments as you like about your thoughts and opinions on the above design.

Soul Chaser's book cover needs you!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Scandinavian Kings of Old and (possible) Soul Chaser covers

As I was out with my Mum over the weekend we visited Deans Garden's Centre outside Jorvik (aka York) and I spotted myself a pack of cards claiming to have all the Kings and Queens of England from history. Well, I thought, I wonder if this could be true so I treated myself to the pack and you know what? I was pleasantly suprised - not only did they have kings and queens from the 19th century, Georgian era, Tudor and Stuart era, Victorian era, and Late Medieval era they also featured the EARLY MEDIEVAL/DARK AGE ERA! Which is the years a few Vikings managed to bag the throne of England. I managed to organise the cards of this particular era right from King Alfred the Great to William the 1st, the Conquerer. Who is of Viking descent I must add hence why he's included.

 I discovered a few kings I'd never heard of? Edgwy (the six of spades in top right) for example, I never heard of him at school? And he ruled for 9 whole years apparently from these cards:

But the Kings that made me smile were these fella's:

The 1st King who helped give the English some strength against the Vikings with the forming of Burghs ie Fortified Towns. Sadly the Danelaw was created during his time.
The King who apparently tried to stop the sea but that is still up to some debate amongst academics. This is the guy I'll be reading about next in a non-fiction historial biography called Canute - Emporer of the North. He was the first King of Norway, Denmark and England!

Canute's son from Emma of Normandy, sadly this guy lost control Norway but he kept Denmark and soon added England to his titles albeit for a mere 2 years.

Of course here we have the refined and powerful figure of William the Conqueror, descendant of the Viking clan that settled the lands of Normandy.
Athelstan is the Great Grandson of Alfred the Great and he really kicked some Viking but by slowly piece by piece reclaiming the Danelaw. Before sending a hell of a warning to other invading Vikings by defeating both Scots, Irish and Norse in the Great battle of Brannanburgh. When his sister's husband died as Lord of Northumbria, he became their lord and so Athelstan technically became the first TRUE King of England.

Aaah Ethelred, sadly this guy is a pretty weak and so he got the nickname Ethelred the Unready. He lost battles against the vikings and he also paid many off with millions worth of Danegeld (protection money). Hence why in this portrait he is carrying a box of gold coins.

Now for some Soul Chaser related news, my partner has introduced me to the GIMP programme - a free programme imitating Photoshop to an extent. I've always had plans at designing my own book/ebook cover with it so I've begun experimenting. 
Now I managed to have an old fashioned sweet jar lying about, I covered the inside with paper and then filled with fair lights on a cable before consealing the trailing wires with more paper as a background. Turn the room light off, turn the fair lights on and this is what my camera captured :
Doesn't it look enchanting already?


So I next had a go at laying some themed ornaments around it - primarily runes as they are obviously nordic and magical.
The rune do make the jar more of a central point although sadly you can see a bit of the wire poking out.
Next step was to upload both these photo's into GIMP and have a mess about. And here's what I did over several nights:
Simple beauty - Soul Chaser cover version 1
Possibly over enhanced and enchanted *ahem* - Soul Chaser cover version 2
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Freya's-Day Fun - Sneak Peak into the BRAND NEW Soul Chaser Chapter 2 - Blood and Feathers

Well it seems like aaaaaages ago I last mentioned the words Soul Chaser or Valkyrie on here...but please don't take that as a sign that I've stopped writing the adventures of valkyries in modern day Jorvik (aka York for the uninitiated). Oh no, I have, albeit on and off due to the usual distractions in life and what's more it's been literally brand new writing in fact a whole brand new chapter has emerged!
It started when I tried to write a back story behind a sudden and mysterious disappearence of a certain Valkyrie readers meet in Chapter 1 (and no it's not the protaganist otherwise I wouldn't have a story to tell). It evolved so well and suprisingly naturally and turned out to be my most dramatic writing yet (makes Chapter 1 like a dip in the water whereas this new chapter literally throws the reader in the deep end).
I had intended originally for hints and clues to be dropped via the protagonist and other characters that this specific Valkyrie's disappearence after Chapter 1 wasn't natural or arranged etc and for a big reveal to come in a later chapter, which did tend to get further and further away from the intended part because another Valkyrie had to learn to fly which took a lot longer than planned.  Anyway, this new sequence of events that I have nearly finished in its roughest form will now snuggle into the current 8 chapters to become the BRAND NEW Chapter 2 - called Blood and Feathers - there's a big hint for you!
I will add it to the sample chapter section once it is neatly tidied up and not too full of errors etc. So to celebrate the addition of an extra spark of imagination I'm going to give you a sneaky glimpse into what I've written for you. The scene you are about to read is at the very start of all the action as it builds up through the middle part so you still have yet to discover the start of it all and the end of the chapter which is also packed full of special secrets and another scene (hehehe) that I didn't intend to feature in the book but it just fitted the puzzle of this new chapter beautifully. I may yet release that secret part at a later date.
So read on and discover a new insight into the nordic modern day clash of worlds that is SOUL CHASER! Enjoy!

“It’s going to be ok Ben, trust us.” Kate quickly tapped his head with the tip of her own spear and he collapsed backwards into her arms. She looked up at me with a stern gaze. “Take him out of here. Now.”
I began gathering Ben up against my chest. “What is that…”
“Now Jennifer! You’re not trained for this.” She snapped at me, with a quick flex of her arm to unleash the full length of her spear.
“Ah, I see you’ve met my new friend.” A cruel voice announced the presence of another unwanted and unexpected and detested figure as Jake strode across the grass towards us.
“Since when did Hel let you have pets?” Kate hissed, standing in front of me and Ben protectively.
“Pets? Oh no, she would never let Garm out here! He has plenty to chew on down below. No, no, this is my companion.” Jake retorted, slowly circling the three of us, his eyes permanently focused on poor trembling Ben, like a kestrel on the hunt.
“She doesn’t believe you can snatch anymore, does she?” Kate somehow managed a smirk, her own eyes locked on his.
Jake’s grew large at such an insult to his pride, soul snatchers values their success rate as much as Valkyries did as soul guardians. He stopped to the right of the mysterious ‘companion’ and brushed back his wavy chestnut hair which looked bright against his cloud grey skin. I knew we were not in a situation to worry about which sad soul he had possessed to make this appearance.
I looked down at Ben and gave him a soft smile, to try and settle the fear I knew he must feel when around such cursed beings that come straight from Hel. It was as I looked back up that I caught a tiny spark of white. A second appeared to form within Kate’s right hand which was also holding her spear. She was summoning the power of the rune Is, meaning Ice and using the power held within the spear to conceal it. I knew it wouldn’t be enough to stop both Jake and the ‘companion’ rushing at us both upon any movement from us. I braced myself, with Ben held tight in my arms, for Kate’s move.
“You haven’t actually been introduced yet have you?” He sneered, resting his hand upon the ‘companion’s’ shoulders. “Ladies, meet Vasir. He was a great warrior long ago, but sadly got involved in a drunken brawl and had his head smashed open with a few wine jars. Hence the hood, he’s not a pretty sight. Even I don’t like to look at him.” He laughed bold and loud. A growl was the response Vasir gave for Jake’s remarks causing him to snatch his arm away quickly. “Ironic thing is he hasn’t lost a fight since, drunk or not.”
“Let’s see if he can still hold the right to such a claim.”
Vasir gave the roar of a wild bear and whirled out a large battle axe from behind his back. In the couple of seconds that one swift movement took Kate had already made hers. She had whirled her spear tip down and thrust it into the ground, forcing the combined energy of whatever runes she had summoned along with Is into the small point of impact. The resulting mix destabilized the runic energy creating a combusting force that struck out at all around. Ben and I were a few seconds ahead of the wave of the energy, soaring skywards with all I could pull from my cloak, Kate not far behind to my left. The maelstrom of dust and crackling lightening bubbling up below us into the air. The pressure helped propel me further, I thought we were going to make it as the eruption of power was slowing when I heard something like a series of fast metallic clinks. Something thin and black struck out of the dust and hit Kate in the back of her head. It shocked her enough to lose her focus causing her to fall away into the clouds of chaos beneath me.

TO BE CONTINUED.................

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Becky Bookworm Book Review: The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon

There is a brand new addition to my Norse Fantasy collection over at FantasyGuide.com - click on the cover to see my review and open yourself to a whole new world of viking books.
Enjoy!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A glimpse into my hoard of viking books - worth all the danegeld in the world! - In honour of World Book Day 2012

Spread some Viking Love on World Book Day 2012

Although I work in a Library, because we're with teenagers we didn't do a lot to celebrate World Book Day 2012 apart from mess about with some posters and create a nice display that was sadly put so far out of the way no one really noticed it. I couldn't even dress up as my favourite character (i.e. medieval maiden/viking volva).

Anyway to help spread the viking love on such a brilliant day for bookworms everywhere I have individually photographed all of my favourite viking books (fantasy, historical and non-fiction) and put them up in a FaceBook album for everyone to see including links to those I have reviewed on my blog/goodreads/FantasyGuide.com.

So please follow the link and take a peek if you can Hoard of Viking Books

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