Saturday, 17 November 2012

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Harald Hardrada: The Warrior's Way by John Marsden

I do believe this is the only type of military biography and the life and battle career of the infamous Harald Hardrada. You won't find it available on Amazon, I managed to find it on He is one of my favourite historic scandinavians amongst Eirik Bloodaxe and King Canute. Click the image to read my full review and to discover a fictional adventure starring the warlord himself.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Valkyrie to Valkyrie - a blog interview with norse fantasy author Tee G Ayer

One of my favourite norse fantasy authors currently (I have several) is fulfilling my dreams with ease in that she's written a captivating and gripping book featuring my favourite norse mythical being VALKYRIES!
Author Tee G Ayer is the proud creator of the great and fantastic Valkyrie Novels - Dead Radiance and recently released, Dead Embers:
Dead  Radiance - Valkyrie Novel 1
Dead Embers - Valkyrie Novel 2
I sat down to chat with her (via email and Word) about how it all began for her .....

When did you first start to write?
I've written most of my life- little stories, poems etc. but although my writing was always something I couldn't help but do, it was always just the thing I did for me.
When did you decide to try to get your writing published?
I never seriously considered pursuing publication until 2010 when I met Science Fiction author Julie Czerneda. She gave me all the encouragement I needed to take the next step and begin writing and learning the craft. A million thanks to you dear Julie
How long did it take you to write Dead Radiance? Did it require several rewrites or any major edits and cutbacks?
It took three weeks to write, and four to do one round of edits. It was almost like a writing war that I held with myself. The idea had percolated, I'd done a very bare bones outline, and daydreamed a lot until the day I began to write. I'd stayed home to write full time, promising DH that all I needed was two years. And in the first month home, Dead Radiance was written in entirety. I do wish I could repeat that now with Dead Chaos or with any other book I  want to write, but juggling edits for one book, writing a second  and researching/outlining a third can make digging down and doing regular word wars a little difficult. maybe some day soon I can repeat the book-in-a-month feat.
What was your experience like when you tried to get it published? Did you aim initially for an e-book or did you try the traditional route as well?
I tried the traditional route, got a few full requests, then decided I'd expand my possibilities with small press. A friend gave me a few not so subtle jabs in the ribs to send my MS to Evolved Publishing and I finally agreed. Never looked back since.
Do you have an agent? If so what help has having one made? Or if not, what is it like managing it by yourself?
No, I don't have an agent. I'm not against having one either, except that I quite like the hands-on approach that EP allows. I have cover and layout control which I love and I have the benefit of professional editors and well marketed launches and promotions.
How would you describe your writing style? For example do you find you write best in the morning, afternoon, early hours?
I'm a night owl but I've had to fight it. I work all day, then take a break to spend time with the teens and DH. Then I'm back at the PC for a few hours. I usually like to get my emails out of the way first thing in the morning so my inbox doesn't pout.
Where is your best writing location? For example on holiday? In a study? In a library? In a coffee shop?
My study nook. I've gotten into such a routine that my study is the most comfortable place for me- I need to have a really good chair for back support as I get cranky if I'm uncomfortable in any way. Also, it helps me to identify work and play, gives me time off on the couch. My bed, though, will always double as a place for reading. On the odd day, the coffee shop does work wonders for me too.
When did you get interested in Norse Mythology?
Truthfully, I fell in love with Norse Mythology the day I looked up the meaning of Thursday in our encyclopaedia. As soon as I realised that we paid homage to the Norse pantheon every week, I was driven to learn more about the gods and the stories.
What is your favourite Norse god/goddess or Norse legend?
Loki. Loki is mercurial, the trickster. He follows his heart and instinct first. Some readers don't like that I've portrayed him almost as a bad guy. But he's not really a bad guy at all. To me he's sometimes more real, and more human than the other gods are.
Did you do a lot of research into the pantheon and what resources did you use? For examples books, encyclopaedias, the internet, museum artefacts etc?
Oodles of research. I used everything, textbooks, art websites, history buff websites, even Wikipedia. I trolled the net, reading tonnes. But the one thing I never did was read another book that uses Norse mythology as a strong story arc. I refused to allow myself to read them in case I unconsciously borrowed from them.
What is it do you think that still interests and captivates people about these forgotten gods and goddesses?
I personally think that gods and goddesses represent immortality and greatness, two things that people instinctively yearn for. And even when people no longer worship those gods, they live vicariously through stories told about the gods,
When did the idea for Dead Radiance first pop into your head?
Well, I was watching NatGeo doco of a discovery of a tomb. They were interviewing DNA specialists and I laughed to myself saying DNA Specialists, as if they would actually try to clone the mummy itself. As you know that's sort of where the Prologue of Dead Radiance burst to life.
Why did you pick Valkyries as a focus for your book?
Valkyries were the winged creature of choice because I wanted to write something with an angelic lien but not the average overdone fallen angel story.
What inspired you to create the Ullfr and Sleippnir and other Nordic creatures and beings in the manner you have? I believe you are the first to take this approach with them; other Norse fantasy authors have kept them as individuals not as a race or species.
To be honest it was not a conscious thing. I wanted to keep the story true to Norse mythology but I also wanted an original story, something similar yet different enough that could allow me to expand on the realms and create more possibilities for the series. I also crossed my fingers and hoped I wouldn't offend anyone with my take on the myths... *fingers still crossed
Whenever I was reading your description of the buildings and landscape of Asgard I almost felt like it was on an epic and beautiful scale similar to the world of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. It had that deep charm and vision about it. Is that how you intended it to come across? If not would you explain the reasoning behind your version of Asgard?
I live in NZ, the backdrop of the LOTR series. I also hail from Southern Africa, with its Drakensberg Mountains and it Valley of a Thousand hills. When presented with such sheer majesty of nature I do believe we are compelled to incorporated nature into our novels where appropriate. It didn't help either, when my alpha and beta readers would respond and say, 'Omg this would make a great movie!!' Lol
Why did you choose teenagers as the age of your main characters? Did you always intend to write a YA novel and Valkyries just happened to be involved?
In fact, I'd fully intended on writing supernatural horror but with teen daughters who thought I was crazy to suggest writing something they wouldn't read, I was stuck with YA. And I've had so much fun I've never looked back...
The plot in Dead Radiance is full of thrilling twists and exciting discoveries; did you have to plan it all out chapter by chapter before writing it down or the other way round?
The story of Dead Radiance had built up within my mind so much that all I did was write down the barest of plans. Twelve points along the story, three major turning points in the tale, and a total word count of 80k as a goal. Then I sat down and wrote, challenging myself to write at least 5k per day. I did little else besides writing. I wrote only on weekdays, leaving the evenings and weekends to mull over the story, or read up on Norse Myths. I Insisted on my mulling time, and forced myself to stop even if I felt like writing. And in this fashion it took 3 weeks to a full first draft. I did increase my word count to 6k per day in the last week. Every twist and turn came from the writing of it. I'd never sat and planned this novel at all. Not that I would never have planned, it's just that I was family new to writing itself and I just did what I thought was right at the time.
Was it as you neared the end of Dead Radiance you decided it was going to be a trilogy? Or did you have a three book plot idea already?
The Valkyrie series has never been a trilogy. It's always just been a series in my head only because I have no idea how long it will be. At the moment it's three, maybe four books and who knows it may be more than that in the end. Just depends on the characters and the story I guess
A lot of paranormal and supernatural myths and legends are making a comeback on the YA novel scene at the moment (Not mentioning vampires), Angels, Succubuss, vampire/half-human hunters, faeries, witches, werewolves etc. Do you think there is a space for Valkyries and the Norse Gods to catch some of the lime light? And if so why do you think teenagers would be interested?
I've been noticing a trend actually. Current adult paranormal fiction whether romantic or urban fantasy feature characters that run the gamut of fantasy. Every creature possible has been used within such fictional tales and I find it no surprise at all that this type of characterisation will feed into YA fiction. It makes perfect sense really. Teens read YA then the look for more fantasy and move on to more adult Parnormal reads.
I like to think Valkyries as main characters offer a fresh approach to paranormal/supernatural fiction. As often in other paranormal/supernatural tales the young girl/woman character is stuck in a love triangle between whatever mythical creatures are involved in the tale and more often than not that girl/woman character is emotionally strong but physically powerless. The only strong female supernatural/paranormal characters tend to come in to the form of vampire hunters/witches etc. Valkyries help balance that out possessing physical and emotional strength which I feel Bryn demonstrates brilliantly with her love for Adrian and her resolve in battle. What are your thoughts on the above?
Valkyries themselves aren't new to YA or urban fantasy, but I do know that t my Valkyrie series does portray this particular Norse creature in a slightly different light. They are strong characters in themselves, and even the folklore will certainly corroborate that Valkyries were not your average fainting wallflower. I'm not sure ifs can comment too much on the whole genre per se. My reading tastes have never been specific to one genre so I'm hardly in a position to say I've read through the YA genre. What I can say is that I hope that writing about the Valkyrie, creatures who within the myths were treated as glorified barmaids, now have the opportunity to prove that they were powerful warriors too. Why would legends tell of great princesses becoming avenging Valkyrie?
Have you read any other books on a similar theme to yours, what I term as Norse Fantasy?
It may seem odd but I tried not to read other books in the genre of Norse Mythology, specifically because it want any unconscious transference. When my series is completed I will certainly have a stack of books waiting for me.
Can you give us any hint to the challenges that face Bryn in Dead Chaos?
Bryn will face tougher challenges in both her life as a Valkyrie and in the problems of her heart. Like most people she will question what she has, and make her choices accordingly. How she does it? Well, eager readers of the series will have to wait and see. Unless you're a book reviewer... Then you get to see an ARC in advance of publication for an honest review :) 
When is Dead Chaos planned to release?
Dead Chaos is the third in the Valkyrie series, and at this point we are looking at a early second quarter 2013 release. 
Finally, what advice, tips or suggestions would you give for someone, like myself, who is writing with a paranormal/supernatural theme?
I'd say ensure your world-building is sound.  Before you do anything with your story make sure it makes sense and is believable. All fantasy requires a certain level of suspension of disbelief but it is vital you never overstep the mark. Believe me, readers are smart and they don't like being messed with.

You can learn more about her Valkyrie novel series and read my reviews of both Dead Radiance and Dead Embers by clicking here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Becky Bookworm Book Review: The Splintered Kingdom by James Aitcheson

The Splintered Kingdom (The Bloody Aftermath of 1066, #2)The Splintered Kingdom by James Aitcheson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, if you think Tancred got into enough trouble with his lord being murdered by a hoarde of anglo-saxons and then getting involved with a traitorous cleric who was trying to salvage the body of the 'usurper' Harold Godwineson - think again! James Aitcheson brings back the scary revelation of how troublesome the years after 1066 were and in Splintered Kingdom he reveals that it wasn't just the English wanting to get rid of the Normans, the Welsh also were quite good at kicking up a fuss. Such attacks by the Welsh were like pesky mosquito bites to the fragile Norman regime William was trying to enforce and Tancred becomes not just personally devestated by such attacks but also embroiled in an attempt to crush the Welsh rebellions once and for all.
But James doesn't leave the plot line as tidy as that for the strategy fails and backfires horribly on Tancred's honour creating new enemies and estranging his closest comrades in arms. But if you think that is the worse Tancred has to face well dear reader each stage of this battle-full saga will break your heart for our dearest Norman knight as much worse is yet to come and Tancred will have to somehow survive if he is to keep his name intact let alone a head on his shoulders.
This is a truly astonishing sequel to Sworn Sword, more packed with battles, enemies, blood-shed, trauma and of course shock and horror as events unfold to a climactic ending which no one will see coming and leaves us all gasping not just for breath but the adventures to continue in the next book.
As a firm viking fan I must admitt, James Aitcheson has shown that the Vikings didn't have all the fun adventures and battles, for Normans invading and conquering a foreign land, every day was a new adventure and a new battle to be fought and won.

View all my reviews

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Dead Embers by T G Ayer - Valkyrie Novel 2

Yet again I've been blown away by the imagination of author T G Ayer as her Valkyrie novel trilogy continues from Dead Radiance to Dead Embers. She's one of my author heroes for bringing Valkyries to the fore in Norse Fantasy and for showing that Valkyries are way coooler than Angels falling in love with morals or Vampires falling in love with mortals any day!
So to see my review of Dead Embers simply click the cover image link and scroll down to find it immediately after Dead Radiance (just to briefly refresh yourself on how much I loved the first one). The least I can say is that I wasn't disappointed and other readers of the series won't be.

Dead Embers (Valkyrie, #2)

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