I’ll be live!

Cate & Friends Sandi LayneThis is one of those things that makes me super nervous, but I am going to be LIVE tomorrow night.

Past my bedtime and everything!

Questions forwarded to me (thank you, Cate!) include which characters were the first I killed in one of my books . . . fun stuff, no? And just how did I get into writing anyway? Because you know? I never planned on doing this . . .

True story!

Check out the info in the graphic above and consider yourself invited. Cate will be moderating audience participation, too, which is very kind of her. And optimistic!


Talking books and Irish history on BlogTalkRadio

harp_bIt’s funny how things happen, you know? I met this lady, Stacy Harp, almost thirty years ago at church. She and her husband got married one month after Joe and I got married and I didn’t even know that until this year.

Her brother married my sister. We celebrated the holidays last year together in Tennessee and it turns out that Stacy is a voice behind Active Christian Media. “We gotta get you on the show!” she told me last year. Because sometimes, Bible News Radio features Christian authors and Christian fiction.

It just…took us a while to get together!

But now we have. 🙂 My portion begins at about thirty minutes in at this link here.

My thanks to Stacy, my sister-in-law-in-law ;-), and her husband Randall for being such great hosts!
Stacy is not only into Active Christian Media, but is also a clinically trained therapist.


writer_at_workNow that Éire’s Devil King is with my editors, I am at work on deciding what to do next.

I have a couple of projects before me, both of which I want to do.

Today, I am taking time to research for one of them. Pre-writing research is different than how I research while I’m writing. In order to best establish my characters, their place in their society, their mode of living and expression, I have to do a lot of pre-writing research just to find out who they are.

I know what my heroine looks like already, for example, but what kind of household surrounded her as she grew? What sort of trades did she see every day? What kind of government held sway not only over her actions but the actions of those living at a distance from her? What prejudices beset her society? What prejudices might she have thus claimed herself? Was her family large? Did her mother have a lot of personal authority in the home or was that not normal?

And that’s just off the top of my head for one character!

I’m reading an article written in 1755. It’s a discussion of the “Conduct of the French in America” and so on. In this piece found in the Gentleman’s Magazine for January of that year, there is valuable information regarding not only the crops of the colonies extant at that time, but also the social prejudices about what constituted “population” and like that. There is more than just detail; there is psyche.


For this story, I have an idea of what I want to have happen, but I don’t know if it’s even feasible at this juncture—at least not in the way I pictured it. If I can contrive it to happen in a rational manner, then I can write it. If not, I have to decide what basic details needs adjusting so that my ideal can be created. I don’t mind writing something that would have been unusual in the time period, but I don’t want it to be insupportable.

So I research. And I place my notional hero (a good man, but a man of his time to be sure) into a pair of shoes that may or may not fit. I learn more about the life in the head of the Man about the Colony as well as what I can glean about those who lived on the fringes. What did the local Native American Nations think of what was happening? Which Nations were allied with France? England? Which chose to remain aloof?

And so on.

I have already spent time in a local library, taking actual notes with an actual notebook and pen. This was fun. I need to find a bigger library. Today, the research is online, for the most part.

Eventually, in the not too distant future, I will make decisions about this romance I’ve got in my head. When I have a better idea about it, I’ll let y’all know.

In the meanwhile, I’m writing a bit of Christian fiction, too. Not a romance, but a peek from an unusual perspective at an unusual time. I hope it works. That one is being outlined at present. There isn’t a question of feasibility on this one—the supernatural is a given as the story opens—but I need to make it relatable. That is a challenge. I just can’t tell you why, just yet. 😉

Soon, though, soon.

In the meantime, I’m reading old articles and studying old maps and having the best day. 🙂writingquill

Book A Day


Welcome to June!

I heard about this Book a Day idea and thought I’d try it out here on my blog. This is how it’ll work.

I am going to “pin” this to the front page and add the title of a book that fits the requirement of the day as per the graphic above.

If you want to join in, share where you’re posting in the comments below, and check back here daily. 🙂


1stThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum I read this book cover to cover, flipped it over, started again. I did this until the cover fell OFF the BOOK. I don’t know why. 🙂

2ndTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I got this book for only $3.99 in trade paperback. It was originally $21.00, and I was pretty chuffed. 🙂 This was my best bargain from last year that wasn’t a Kindle deal. 🙂

 3rdSeize the Nightseize the night

4thNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I love Austen. I know Northanger Abbey is something like a parody, made to be exactly what it is. I know that. But. This is my least favorite book by Austen.Once upon a time, my least favorite book of hers was Emma, but I love it, now. So who knows? Give me a few more years and Northanger may grow on me. 🙂

5thI have no books on my shelf that aren’t mine. I used to, but I sent it back to its owner. That one was The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. And, though I very much enjoyed the movie? The book was, as always, far better. 🙂

ECM-3D-Paperback-eReader6thThis is hard. I don’t often give books as gifts unless they’re mine. I don’t know why. So I’ll do a bit of a plug here and say that the book I have given most often as a gift is Éire’s Captive Moon.

7th – The book I’d forgotten I owned is Pirates of the Chesapeake. Shortly after I moved here to Maryland, my mother-in-law and I went shopping at an actual bookstore (be amazed – I don’t to them too often, these days) and I found it in Local History. I thought I might use it for research for a new book. I still might. I’ve written Vikings, but not pirates, per se. Hmm… 😉

8th – Now. For those who know me, the title of the book for which I have more than one copy is what might be termed a “no-brainer”. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I have quite a few copies of this wonderful Jane Austen novel and I suspect I always will. 🙂

Making or P&P9th – This should surprise no one. My first choice for book that is a movie or television tie-in would have to be this. The Making of Pride and Prejudice.

10thRilla of Ingleside. The final book (I think) of the Anne of Green Gables series proper, this book centers around Anne’s youngest daughter, Bertha Marilla Blythe – Rilla – as she grows up during WWI. It’s a hard novel to read at times, a beautiful story about a maturing young woman, and there is a sweet romance in there as well. This book reminds me of waiting for the man who would one day by my husband when we were pen pals while he was in the USMC. Remember, bittersweet is my favorite flavor.

11th – My secondhand bookshop gem would have to be a book I really wanted to find but couldn’t find it except in a used bookstore. It’s The Hampshire Hoyden by Michelle Martin and is, to me the ultimate of what a Regency Romance can be in terms of verbal sparring, social mores, and sheer entertainment. 

12th – To be honest, there really isn’t a book I pretend to have read. I am secure enough in my literary background to own up to books I just haven’t read and don’t want to read. I’m okay with that.

biblioholism cover13thA book that makes me laugh every time without fail is Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe. Read through the timeline alone for some serious chuckles. Especially if you are an industry professional.

14th – Today’s book is to be an old favorite. I have acquired so MANY favorites over the decades that it was hard to pin down one. But in the end, I choose Dragonsong, by Anne McCaffrey. This is the first book in the Harper Hall trilogy that takes place on McCaffrey’s world of PERN, and is about young Menolly, who has to suffer much before she can achieve her dream of being a Harper.

Atticus Finch and Kids15thWhen asked who my Favorite Fictional Father is, my answer is immediately Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. For the record, I loved him as a dad before I saw Gregory Peck in the movie, but Peck did nail the role and will forever be Atticus Finch to me.

16thWhy haven’t more people read the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman? We’ve all seen the movie (right? RIGHT?) but the book remains a largely undiscovered gem.

17thA future classic? I think Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton might be one, but it’s hard to say, these days!

Curious Incident cover18th – I bought the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon on recommendation years ago. It was rec’d to me because I have a son on the Autism Spectrum. This is the only work of fiction I’ve read featuring someone with ASD and it was very interesting, to me. 

ACK! Feeling horribly guilty. I haven’t updated this in a week. My apologies!

Let’s catch up:

19thThis is one I JUST READ. How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You by T.M. Franklin. It’s a YA I got because I know the author and it’s charming! See my review here.

20thFavorite cover? Aside from the awesome covers my cover artists have made for me? Here is one I like a lot – though I didn’t, at first. It’s for Picture Maker by Penina Keen Spinka. 

21stA great summer read? I’d recommend 1632 by Eric Flint. This is a science-fiction-historical-fiction-messing with the time stream kind of story. There is language, people, but it’s a fascinating story.

22ndA great book that you’ll have to look for because it’s out of print is The Hampshire Hoyden by Michelle Martin. I love this book. The perfect Regency Romance.

23rdA book I had to read at school is Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Sorry, folks. I cannot recommend this one, but it does fulfill the requirement for this day.

24thI don’t know that I have a book that hooked me in to reading. I started reading when I was, like, two. So there isn’t a book that made me do it. I just…did.

25thBooks I never finished… Ah, there are a few of those. One of them is The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I tried. I really did. I just couldn’t do it.

26thSomething that should have sold more? *grin* Mine! lol Okay, something that’s not mine, maybe? How about Columbus was Last by Patrick Huyghe. At the very least, it deserves more ratings on Goodreads.

And now that I’m all caught up, I’ll try to do better the rest of the month.

27thI think the only book in which I would have liked to be one of the characters was Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 🙂  Of course, I think I wanted to be Mary. 🙂

28thAlas, I don’t have a favorite independent bookshop… 😦 

prideandprejudice-mp29th – The book I have read most often in the course of my life, aside from the Bible, is Pride and Prejudice. I know, big surprise, eh? It’s a classic. My mother gave me my first copy of it when I was thirteen years of age, and I became a huge fan of Austen in college (my thanks Dr. Ruth ap Roberts!). I now have several editions of P&P in print, as well as all the major screen adaptations on VHS and DVD. This story will never be old for me. 

30th – The final book on this list is the one I’d save if my house were on fire. I have to say, I don’t know that I have a book like that. I might try to get our Chronicles of Narnia series as it’s bound in leather and looks nice. I might try for my Jane Austen anthology. But in reality? I’d likely make sure my Kindle were tucked into my purse while I got the paintings off the wall. Because the paintings in my house are original oils done by artists in my family and they’re irreplaceable. Much as I love my books, even the rare ones, they are not as dear. 

And thus we end Book a Day!


Tuirgeis reflected that it was a good thing he had been married before, or he would have perhaps thought that his young wife was beset by evil spirits that made her unreasonable at times.

~ Éire’s Devil King (a work in progress)

The more things change, the more things stay the same…

Vikings with Two Historical Fiction Authors – Episode 5

Answers in Blood

Last night’s episode was, as always, amazing. Battles and bloodshed, balanced with family relationships and the search for faith. Fascinating stuff! Lissa Bryan (Under These Restless Skies) and I live-tweeted (and it was GREAT to hear from different folks during the episode! Thanks for joining us!) along with author Angel Lawson (Odin’s Murder, along with Kira Gold).

vikings_episode5_stern lagertha

Vikings images property of the History Channel. Click here to go there.

a2alissapicLissa: Lagertha is back! Siggy seemed genuinely happy to see her as the two embraced. She was also warmly greeted by the people of Kattegat, which seemed to make Aslaug a bit jealous. I imagine it has been difficult for Aslaug to win the people’s respect after Lagertha left. As hard as it is for me to have sympathy for her, it can’t have been easy.

Sandi: I really enjoyed Lagertha’s homecoming. Rollo’s greeting was, perhaps, a bit warmer than necessary, but he didn’t overdo it. Much. Siggy might feel a more genuine kinship to Lagertha at this point, as both women are kind of in the “deposed leader’s mate” category. And yes, you’re very kind to Aslaug. I don’t imagine it’s been easy for her, either, but she rejoices in her ability to provide numerous sons to the Jarl. Did you see how she had them gathered about her when Lagertha entered the hall?

Lagertha stands at the head of the table to discuss strategy. It was a wonderful scene which showed the respect they had for her, not only as one who had come to their rescue, but as a formidable warrior in of herself. 

Yes. She is a shieldmaiden of note and she has come with armed men at her side. Plus, Ragnar’s grown son!

tweet destroyed foodIt seems Ragnar is a member of the “It’s so crazy, it just may work,” school of military planning. We see him sneaking in with Björn and a few others to attack the grain stores at Kattegat.

Now, this approach bothered me, and I said so on twitter. Kattegat is their home, the home in which they’ve lived for a long time. Yes, Jarl Borg ran them out of it and they’re in exile, but the people of Kattegat are his people, and he is/was their jarl. I understand the “burn their resources” idea, but how could he do that to his own people?

I loved seeing the flint and steel. This show has been great with little details like that. (Except for the occasional boot heel, eh, Sandi?) I just saw a post online from someone complaining about one of the horse bridles that appeared last week. Apparently, there are people who make note of which horses appear over and over in the show, so that means there are actually people geekier than we are. 😀

This is a relief. 🙂 And you might notice that we haven’t seen a lot of boot soles this season…

image found on Flickr

image found on Flickr

Anyway, the flint and steel was great for building tension in the scene. Gather round little ones, and learn that arson was a much slower process in the “olden days” before Sure-Strike matches.

In this time, there was actually a tool called the fire-steel.  I round a picture of one on Flickr. The Northmen could use this and often had a tinder kit that included the flint, some rope, and maybe even thin bark that they could use to start a quick fire at need. It didn’t take too long, really, compared to other methods.

Even with the addition of Lagertha’s men, I wasn’t sure Ragnar was going to be able to pull off the coming battle for Kattegat. And a heck of a battle scene it was, too. That’s another thing the History Channel has excelled at here, too. They’ve struck a balance between “cinematic” and “gritty.” It was great to see Jarl Borg scuttling away in retreat. Not so great to see Ragnar ciritcize Bjorn for his performance. I thought the boy acquitted himself well for his first battle.

vikings_episode5_rollo bjornThat was a great battle! Did your TL enjoy it? I did wonder. I thought at first that Ragnar had managed to kill Jarl Borg, but alas, no. The intruder ran away with this tail between his legs. The battle had different stages and it was evident that planning had gone into it from both sides. I really appreciated the axe work exhibited, too. Swords were quite expensive and axes and spears were much more common. And Björn’s performance was very good. He did get disoriented when he was knocked down, but he recovered well. He’s at least seventeen at this point, which makes him a man and of an age to go raiding and all those other manly-man things, so Ragnar’s treatment of him as if he were a child irritated me.

Afterwards, the victorious Vikings offer a sacrifice to Thor, and Ragnar indicates that Bjorn should swing the axe. He does, without flinching, though Lagertha looks away, seemingly unhappy about it. You and I have discussed that human sacrifice doesn’t seem to have been common by this time period. But in the context of the show, she should have been happy her son was given the honor.

Honestly, I’m not sure what purpose was served by that particular scene, unless it’s to showcase the difference between the treatment of Rollo and the treatment of Björn. There didn’t seem to be a purpose for the sacrifice. Thanksgiving? Well, there are other ways to express this and a human sacrifice felt out of context for this time.

lissa tweet hostThis scene was interestingly contrasted with scenes of high mass … Floki’s state of euphoria as he smeared the blood on his face, versus the communion ritual. In yet another of those deft touches, they had bits of wheat bread for the host. I envision someone at History Channel saying, “Ah, a communion scene. What type of bread would they have been using as the host at the time…?” From what I saw online, there seemed to be a lot of confusion about whty Athelstan didn’t take communion, but that was – of course – because he was unconfessed.

Athelstan’s character is so complex right now. I’m very much enjoying him raveling and unraveling.

Athelstan is in a very disturbed state right now. He’s trying to regain his faith in Christianity, and his visions have taken on a terrifying edge. Is it his guilt manifesting, or has his mind broken beneath the pressure? Does he consider himself “home” now? There was a strange moment when he met the woman with the disfigured face. He thought for a moment he was having a vision of the Virgin Mary, but she had come to thank him for interceeding with King Ecbert in explaining the rights of pagan women under their laws. She kissed him on the cheek, and suddenly, not-so-religious thoughts seemed to befilling his befuddled mind.

As the History Channel said, Athelstan has a history of such “trips” and I think that they’re bringing them all in, here. He suffered severe trauma when he was enslaved years before. And he’s had to undergo deep cultural displacement. It is not to be wondered at that he is walking on an uncertain edge at this juncture. I do hope, though, that he can find peace within himself this season.

And a romance wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all!

vikings_episode5_ragnar aslaug babyRagnar, too, is in a quandary. He still loves Lagertha, and he wants both women. Neither seems willing to entertain the notion. I liked the Seer’s response that Ragnar was fooling himself if he thought it was his choice.

Ragnar remains true to character, even here. He has goals, but they’re unclear—even to himself. He  loves Lagertha, of course. He has come to care for Aslaug, but in a different way (I think) than he does Lagertha. He wants to honor both women as his wife, he wants all his children around him… He wants a very great deal. But his methods of choosing what is top priority lack finesse, to say the least.

Lagertha comes into the hall and says she has an announcement. Ragnar looks around, a little nervous, and asks if it would best be told to him in private. Lagertha replies she wants to tell everyone. She’s returning to her husband, as is her duty. She tells Ragnar to take care of Björn. 

I get the purpose of her announcement, but I find it odd that she was formally entrusting the care of a fully adult (by their time) male into the care of his father. It was more a statement to the people than it was to Ragnar. And Björn was clearly prepared for it, though his body language seemed to indicate he was quite concerned for his mother. And, oh yes, I got a bit of a tear in my eye during that scene, I confess.

vikings_episode5_Lagertha AslaugAslaug gives Lagertha a heartfelt thank-you for saving Kattegat and her family. She tells Lagertha she is in her debt. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this wasn’t just an expression in those days. Lagertha could have called in a serious favor at some point because of Aslaug’s statement, but she declined it by saying the debt had already been paid.

A debt was a serious thing, whether it was a debt to the positive or to the negative. That Aslaug and Lagertha discussed this in front of the village folk was like saying it in a court, of sorts. It had weight, as you indicated. And though I felt bad for Lagertha, she was completely awesome in this. Her beauty and strength of character are exemplary. She’s not taking second place, she’s showing honor to the sons of Ragnar, she didn’t snipe, she didn’t do anything to denigrate the woman who had, in fact, usurped her. I have nothing but admiration for her. But I am still wondering what is up with her current husband!

This season has been exceedingly well-paced, thus far, and I am excited about what is to come! Look for us next week on twitter @LissaBryan and @sandyquill!

Eye for an Eye – Vikings – Episode 4

All Vikings images used herein are the property of History Channel and are used here solely for illustrative purposes. Click on the banner to go to History Channel's Viking page.

All Vikings images used herein are the property of History Channel and are used here solely for illustrative purposes. Click on the banner to go to History Channel’s Viking page.

Welcome back! Lissa Bryan, author of Under These Restless Skies (if you’re a Tudor fan, read this book!), and I are back again with our discussion from last night’s amazing episode of VIKINGS. Her comments are in purple!

a2alissapicWOW, what an episode! As you said, there wasn’t much to speak of in the way of battles, but it was an explosive episode none the less.
First, let me say I’m in love with their costuming department. The detail on Aslaug’s sleeves was just delightful. You can tell a great deal of care went into the creation of these costumes. Simply gorgeous! This show continues to dazzle me with its costumes and props, from the lovely textiles to the beautifully carved horn cups.

Yes! The details are incredible.

We started out watching Aslaug giving a prissy, princessy huff at Siggy’s choice of shelter for them, but Siggy is able to persuade her into a semblance of common sense. There ain’t exactly a Four Seasons nearby, your highness.

I could not believe her! “It’s too dirty. They’re going to get a disease. Ick. Ew.” Never mind that that people had to move heaven and earth to get her safe. Whine, whine, whine. Did you note how Siggy was handling it all? She, who used to be a woman of such high status, toting water and wearing the plainest of garments and acting almost as a servant? Now I still think she’s got an ulterior motive, but she’s doing great in the circumstances.

Jarl Borg explains to the survivors at Kattegat that he’s taking over – and moreover – why. Quite courteous of him, if you think about it.
It really was. He knows the people had to fight him initially; he would have expected no less, I’m certain. So though he isn’t exactly penalizing them, he is making clear his expectations. As you say, courteous. And fair.

He warns them he’ll tolerate no defiance, and stares at the hostile expression of the Seer as he says it. But a few moments later, we see him seeking the Seer’s vision. The Seer obviously isn’t best pleased to be having the conversation, but he tells him he sees an “eagle” in his future, and Jarl Borg will be that eagle. Borg is pleased because he thinks of an eagle’s strength and majesty in flight, but the Seer’s message can have a much more sinister interpretation.

AND you found the most interesting thing on tumblr last night, Lissa! You found that the Seer is Jarl Borg’s brother.
This was also referenced at Jarl Borg’s wedding. Remember, I said it was a nice bit of theatre?

Borg: However, I was elected at the thing.We had a feast to celebrate.

My wife was there my young, beautiful wife we’d just gotten married and all the others who had stood for election against me.Viking seer

My brother poisoned them all.

I only survived because my wife took the cup I was about to drink from and drained it herself in celebration.

I will never forget her screams. It’s my wife’s screams that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

My brother denied responsibility, but his guilt was too obvious.vSo I blinded him with my own hands, and then I burned him alive.

That’s what I know about the love between brothers.​

[For the script in question, click HERE.]

You and I discussed last season that the “blood eagle” may have been a mythical invention of early Christian writers, or perhaps repeated rumors of the barbaric practices of the “savages.” Lagertha referred to in in one of the first episodes when she threatened to rip out Athelstan’s lungs if her children came to harm under his care. But the actual documentary evidence for the practice is very slim, indeed, and many scholars doubt its veracity.

Indeed. Threatening to remove essential body parts is not unique to the Vikings, of course, so I can see that someone might say it but not actually create what we have seen called a Blood Eagle. Still, great harm can be done through excruciating means, even without that particular torture.

Next, we see Ragnar and King Ecgbert having a bath together. As you mentioned, Viking men would have been comfortable with nudity in steam houses and the like, but bathing together like this would be a little different. I think Ragnar stripped down to bathe with the king to show that he didn’t feel vulnerable stripped of his armor and weapons. You noted that his scars proudly proclaim he’s a warrior who has survived many battles. I’m sure Ecgbert came to the same conclusion!

Yes. This was a test, of sorts as well as a tacit promise that no one was going to die during the conference. With both men naked, no weapons could be hidden up a sleeve or in a boot. Ecbert, you may have seen, didn’t bear the scars of battle – at least not where we could see them. He didn’t have the same war-honed body, either, though he was all groomed and so on. Still, in a bath like that, it did disconcert Ragnar. As you pointed out, Lissa, Travis Fimmel does a fantastic job with this role. He can say a lot with a twitch of his eye.

I remember once reading in Marlene Dietrich’s biography when she talked about acting with the eyes. I don’t think I entirely understood what she meant until I saw this episode.

But it comes down to negotiation… “So soft your fields, so green…” Ragnar wants some of that lush, fertile land, and Ecgbert seems amenable to making a deal, especially since he has expansion plans of his own that Ragnar might be able to help him with.

This interest in settling down is a very big deal, really. Initially, Ragnar wished to get rich but he is a farmer. It’s not all he is, but he is a farmer, after all, and his divided priorities include finding a place where he can grow food and raise his family and live in some sort of peace, I think.

But then he finds out about Jarl Borg’s attack on Kattegat, and wants to leave immediately to find his family. He seems genuinely surprised when King Horik wants to stay and continue with the English mission, and hurt when Athelstan decides to stay on as a translator.

This worried me a great deal, as you know. Flailing did happen in my house, to be sure. Ragnar could have ordered Athelstan to be with him; they’re good friends and have been close companions for years, now. But he didn’t. As with so many other things, Ragnar will regret this, too.

Floki’s smirk hurt almost as much. He was so pleased that Ragnar felt betrayed by Athelstan, as though Floki’s opinion of Athelstan had been vindicated by the ex-priest’s choice to stay behind.

vikings_episode4_ragnar flokiI, truthfully, felt all sick to my stomach. I was so scared, to be honest. I initially thought Floki would set Athelstan up to be tormented in some way once Ragnar wasn’t about, but instead, the mystic shipbuilder returned to the homeland with his leader. Which was loyal. And a good move for a man who is probably feeling a bit insecure about his relationship with his lifelong friend.

Finally we see Lagertha standing up for herself against that lout of a husband. I’m really hoping to find out soon why she chose to stay with him and endure that sort of treatment.

Yes! I saw you’d asked the History Channel, too! Lissa tweet vikings lagertha
And I loved seeing how protective Björn is of her. He was all set to go in, knife at the ready. I was also pleased to see how loyal he is to Ragnar. Leaving his father was not easy for him, but he did it and I think it was the right choice for him. Still, Lagertha has clearly not said or done anything to make Björn think less of his father than he did already, which was good. Björn seems to have grown into a strong man without too much baggage.

We also see Aslaug’s powers as a völva in action when she envisions Ragnar’s return. Soon, he’s back for real, and he’s full of hot-headed plans to charge back to Kattegat and whomp on Jarl Borg. But with his pitifully small band, he couldn’t do much more than the harrying tactics that Rollo was suggesting without getting slaughtered.

I concur. Still, I give props to Rollo for his planning on the matter, and for confronting Ragnar honestly about the situation. Rollo’s whole demeanor changed, from the lagging, hopeless man he’d been to a leader. Even if his decisions aren’t always solid, he is trying and making sense.

Athelstan succumbs to the siren call of that book of Christian scripture Floki got for him from Westminster. The next day, something horrible happens when the warriors are attacked and Athelstan is driven away from them by a hail of arrows. He falls asleep in a field to be woken up by a contingent of English soldiers. He surrenders … I thought he probably would be better off charging them with his axe and dying a quick death, and I was right. In the next scene, we see him about to meet a horrifying end.

athelstan crucifixion gifWell, I don’t know about right, necessarily, but surrender would have been easier on him, to be sure! Crucifixion was not a common means of execution in this time and place, even for the apostate. But I believe that the bishop responsible has his own agenda to bring forth (doesn’t everyone?) and he was making his own bit of theatre with Athelstan as an example.

The history buff in me has to interject here… I’m certainly not an expert on early Christian Church law, but I know as early as the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, clerics were expressly forbidden from shedding blood. The church itself didn’t execute people – they would find the offender guilty of heresy/apostasy and turn them over to the secular arm of the law for punishment. They weren’t even supposed to be present at an execution. I know it’s 300 years after the time period of this show, but some areas had their own more stringent customs. Some wouldn’t even allow clerics to be surgeons because of the prohibition of shedding blood. What did your research indicate?

There aren’t any official surviving records of the punishment of the apostate in early 9th Century England, so the show’s creators have some leeway in how they approach Athelstan’s treatment. I am just wondering how they decided he was apostate, except that any association (successful, since Athelstan is clearly a free man) with the “Northern Pagans” would make him suspect. Crucifixion largely went out of style around the 5th Century over most of Europe. But that doesn’t mean that pockets of people here and there didn’t do things their own way. Oversight was minimal in the more rural areas. Still, a bishop of rank likely wouldn’t have gone this far unless he had something else he was trying to accomplish as well. Medieval Multi-tasking.

Thank goodness, the execution is stopped when King Ecgbert decides Athelstan might have value to Ragnar.

Yes, but at what cost to Athelstan? What will happen to him? How will this affect his faith? His relationship with Ragnar?
vikings_episode4_Lagertha cavalryThe cavalry appears on the horizon for Ragnar! Lagertha has arrived with Björn and a strong band of warriors in tow to help Ragnar take back his lands. It’s a lovely moment of reunion for Ragnar and his son, though his conversation with Lagertha is a tad stilted. Still, the episode ends on a note of hope for Ragnar.

I was surprised at the stiffness between Ragnar and Lagertha, though I don’t know why I was. They are still the Viking Power Couple to me, even if they aren’t, anymore. The meeting with his son, though, brought tears to my eyes for real. It was exactly what I’d hoped to see. As you said, the episode ended well, to a point. But oh, next week!vikings_episode4_reunion

Will he be able to win back his homeland? Will Lagertha and Aslaug clash, and if so, whose side will Siggy land on? How will the poor, wounded Athelstan fare in Ecgbert’s clutches? I don’t anticipate many warm baths in his future.

Invisible Burden of the Trilogy

noun: trilogy; plural noun: trilogies
  1. 1.
    a group of three related novels, plays, films, operas, or albums.
    • (in ancient Greece) a series of three tragedies performed one after the other.
    • a group or series of three related things.
      “a trilogy of cases reflected this development”
from Greek trilogia, from tri- ‘three times’ + logos ‘story.’

In the current publishing climate, I am seeing a divergent (See what I did, there?) set of perspectives regarding trilogies. On the one hand, folks like them because they are considered to be an extending of a story involving characters the reader has come to love/hate and this is pleasing. On the other hand, the story often changes or ends in a way that a reader might find unsatisfactory.

Because, let’s face it, life DOES that. If your life were a trilogy, would YOU expect to be where you are, now?

I digress.

As I am writing the final book in what is, in fact, a trilogy, I have to confront the general expectations of those who read trilogies. And I have to confront the fact that I am not and never have been a terribly conventional sort of person.

A trilogy is, as per the definition above, a group of three related novels. Related. That is, they are bound together by common theme or purpose, as well as (often) a character or two. Or more.

ECM smallMy trilogy has three separate books, each with its own story arc, but they are related. They are pointing to a place in history that I always intended to get to, and I’m there, just about, in my current writing. It’s a burden to shoulder, though, when I know how people sort of expect trilogies to conclude. A burden that I hadn’t fully considered when the idea originally occurred to me, once upon a time.

But still, I persevere. I am trying to balance my ideal for this final book—

—As an aside, it is highly intimidating and frustrating to write a trilogy and publish it and be unable to go back and tinker with earlier books in the series—

Eires-Viking-3D-Paperback—with the role the final book in a trilogy should play. Because, honestly, to me a trilogy is a series of three related books. But to many, it’s a saga that should end in a certain way.

So, I continue to write, adding a scene here and there, progressing forward in my ultimate design for this final Viking book. I fret, I dance, I look up dates and names, I check the weather patterns for the 9th century…

And I enjoy the process.

I hope my readers will enjoy the result. Both of this book and the entire trilogy.

Vikings 2 – Episode 3 – Treachery

All Vikings images used herein are the property of History Channel and are used here solely for illustrative purposes. Click on the banner to go to History Channel's Viking page.

All Vikings images used herein are the property of History Channel and are used here solely for illustrative purposes. Click on the banner to go to History Channel’s Viking page.

What an episode last night! Battles, a wedding, a marriage, raids! Very exciting. And through it all, Lissa Bryan and I had a lot to say. You can follow along and join us next week, if you want! @LissaBryan and @sandyquill. Today on my blog, I will be featuring Lissa’s comments in purple, so please read on. 🙂

vikings_episode3_gallery pre raid ragnarIn this episode, we see the Vikings starting off in their element, casually strolling toward Winchester. The battle was fierce, but brief, and it left the Vikings looking around – much like their first raid in England, saying, “This can’t be it?” Cautiously, they open the doors of their prize. I’m not sure if they were pleased or disappointed to find out that was, indeed, all the battle there was going to be.


I think they were likely pleased at that juncture, as they hadn’t yet seen what they were fighting for. Why fight for no purpose? Does that get a man to Valhalla? But for this scene, I was very much captivated by Athelstan’s performance, as well as the developing Athelstan-Floki dynamic.


sandi vikings tweet v2 e3Once inside, Floki challenges Athelstan. “You said there’d be treasure.” There’s almost a smirk on Athelstan’s face as he reveals its location beneath the altar. But I think Floki sees some things very clearly through those madman’s eyes. There is still part of Athelstan that dwells in the heart of his abbey. We saw it when he tenderly touched the pages of those manuscripts. He struck down the priest who saw a “heathen” about to touch the pages of scripture they were copying, but there was regret, a pang for a life that was lost to him. No doubt, we’ll soon see him reading that book Floki brought him after the raid was over.


That was a great sequence for Athelstan’s character. I think he had made his peace with the idea of raiding his homeland, but confronted with killing monks—men he would have called “brother” not too many years before—had to have been rough on him.

The priest’s warning to Athelstan was very true: his punishment as an apostate would be awful if he was captured by the Church.

Not to mention how it would turn out if word got out that Athelstan was heard to claim Odin as Supreme. Interestingly, he did not claim the pantheon of the Northern Way, but only Odin the All-Father. I am thinking he is making a mental substitution, here, and does not truly follow the Norse gods, but puts a name in place of his own. Ragnar, during training in an earlier episode, clearly indicates that Athelstan’s God is separate from Ragnar’s.


I wonder if the priest’s death by arrows was a set-up to see what Athelstan would do.
vikings_episode3_athelstan floki
Oh, I’m sure he did. Floki doesn’t trust Athelstan and I think this is a bi-level thing. One, of course, is the matter of faith and culture. Floki is devout and he is a man of his time and place. A genius for sea-craft and a mystic in many ways. But he’s also jealous, I think, of Athelstan’s relationship with Ragnar. He might have disparaged the arm-ring—the symbol of manhood conferred on the Northmen—that Athelstan had been given, but he understood its significance. And Ragnar talks to Athelstan. Good talks. Needful talks. For a friend of longstanding, that can be seen as threatening, perhaps.


None of the Vikings seemed terribly disappointed or surprised when he ended it with a slash of his knife. Ragnar was lurking in the doorway, and he seemed to simply roll his eyes as he departed.


I was kind of thinking that Ragnar was half-prepared to step in himself at that juncture. He didn’t exactly demonstrate concern toward the bishop, but he did keep an eye on Athelstan. That Athelstan took it upon himself to end the bishop’s suffering was something he didn’t remark upon, for good or ill. I think the approval there—for injury and the ending of it—was tacit.


In the kitchen, Ragnar stops for a bite of fresh bread. Good stuff, too… That was manchet-style bread, made of the finest wheat flour, carefully sifted to remove the bran. It would be comparable to our wheat bread today in texture. The peasants ate heavier, darker, coarse bread made of barley and rye flour. He sits down to check out a bowl of grain and spies a child crouching down beside the table.


It was clearly good bread. And then, after having a bite, he casually opens the oven so that his men are satisfied with more treasure. But it’s clear that for Ragnar, the food—and the land where it is grown—is the treasure. He’s already thinking of settling here to some extent.


Did he think of Gyda? For some reason, I thought so. He slowly got up, grabbed a rug, and used it to conceal the child. It was a lovely moment. Sad to think that poor child, who apparently got left behind when everyone else hid beneath the floor of the barn, was the only one who survived.


I think he did think of Gyda—but also of his sons. He’s a fond father, as we’ve noted before, and children are precious to him.


lissa tweet v2e3After all this time, we finally see Lagertha again, but what a change of circumstance! She has remarried to another jarl, a man named Sigvard. He strikes her across the face and Lagertha is oddly submissive to it. She promises a concerned Björn that it won’t happen again. She’s quick to try to make peace both with her husband and with her son, who is understandably upset to see his mother abused.  I was intrigued… What in the world would make Lagertha accept that kind of treatment? There has to be a lot more to this story.


Later, Björn proposes that he go off on his own to try to survive in a little cabin in the mountains. Lagertha seems very pleased by this idea, but Sigvard scoffs at it and refuses. Her reminds Bjorn he promised Lagertha he would take care of her son.


I am still wondering why Björn is not treated as a man by Jarl Sigvard. He was given his armband years ago, so he should be free to go into the woods if he likes unless there are other, more compelling, reasons for him to stay behind. As you say, there is a backstory here that I am very interested in discovering.


Jarl Borg has gotten remarried, and used the occasion of his wedding to vow his vengence against Ragnar and Rollo.


A nice bit of theatre, as I said last night. I am fairly certain that Borg was not at all concerned about the wine being poisoned and merely acted to get any remaining support that his men might have withheld.


Both brothers rejected him, and now Borg will use Ragnar’s absence as his chance. Rollo’s napping again – or sleeping off too much mead – and Siggy has to come and wake him to tell him there’s an invasion underway.
vikings_episode3_rollo siggyRollo’s self-esteem really took a lot of hits, I think, which is why he was essentially skulking for years before he was forgiven (but not restored entirely) by his brother. His relationship with Siggy is likely about the only thing that has kept him even moderately afloat.


She gained back a measure of my respect again when she appeared with a shield and sword. Untrained, but willing to fight to defend her home. That takes guts.
More guts than Aslaug had, apparently. One would think the daughter of Brunhilda and Sigurd … Well, she spent her childhood stuffed in a harp, so what can one expect?


It’s interesting to see how the women are portrayed in this episode, really. You’ve got Siggy the Schemer (for she is, though she was willing to fight. To what end? Is she harboring jealousy over Lagertha?) who is older and accustomed to being a Leader’s Consort but not unwilling to try to lead herself. Had she hoped to prove herself in that battle? And there’s Aslaug who is royal and has good taste and can bear multiple sons, but beyond that has proven a bit useless in any practical way. And then there’s Lagertha, who will always be a shield maiden and fierce mother. She is clearly acting with her own agenda…but to what end?


Rollo convinces Siggy to take Aslaug and the children to the mountains while he stays behind to defend Kattegat. I wasn’t as impressed with this battle as I have been with others. Did Ragnar really leave his home completely defenseless? Was it hubris or short-sightedness that made him make such a foolish decision?


This was foolish on Ragnar’s part, indeed. He seems to be away from Kattegat when he is most needed or wanted. Granted, he is doing bold things out in the world, but his first responsibilities, one could argue, were being neglected thereby. I’m not sure if it’s hubris but rather short-sightedness, as you said, or possibly just not thinking.


I was watching Borg’s boats slooooooowly approach and I’m sitting there looking around. “Where are the archers? Can’t someone at least throw some ROCKS at them?” It wasn’t until they hopped out of the boats and started slogging toward shore that I saw a couple of arrows fall.


vikings_episode3_gallery rollo post battleRollo had apparently sent the archers into a fallback position. He kept them in reserve in case the others were unable to do an adequate job of protecting the village. Traditionally in medieval warfare, archers can stand behind the main fighting body as their weapons have a reach of sorts, but it would have been wiser to use them earlier. Rollo is a good man in combat, but he’s not a general.


But nevertheless, Ragnar’s people are driven back, and Rollo flees to where Aslaug, Siggy, and the children are were watching Kattegat burn. I can’t imagine Ragnar being pleased to hear that Rollo fled with his wife and the children, but maybe he’ll see the terrible, terrible mistake he made in leaving Kattegat utterly defenseless.


It really isn’t Rollo’s fault. And when the elder reminded him that his duty was to save the lives of Aslaug and Ragnar’s sons, he did it. But yeah. Ragnar will not be happy. I do hope he doesn’t take it out on Rollo, though. Without Rollo, it is possible that Aslaug and the boys would have been slain or captured.


I am definitely looking forward (as always!) to next week!

Vikings 2 – Episode 2 – Invasion

All images herein are the property of the History Channel. Click here to go there.

All VIKINGS images herein are the property of the History Channel. Click here to go there.

a2alissapicWelcome back! Lissa Bryan, author of Under These Restless Skies (which I recently reviewed) and I tweeted again during Episode 2 on Thursday night and we were both very impressed, I think. Her comments are in purple.


What an episode! My husband really enjoyed this one, and not just for the awesome battle scene.


That was a great battle scene. I was surprised by the lack of helmets on the part of Ragnar’s allied warriors, but I think the directors did that so that the viewing audience could more easily differentiate between the Vikings and the English. 


And Lissa, you didn’t mention the female warriors! There were at least the two that I saw. We didn’t see them set apart as shield maidens, but it was a surprise to see them with the invading party.


What was the name of the girl that Ragnar was flirting with when Aslaug got upset at him? I couldn’t remember.


Me, either. But she was from Uppsala and reminded me a little of a Swedish foreign exchange student that was with us when I was in college. If her name is important, I am guessing we’ll hear it again. 


I’m wondering if she might be important later. Or if Ragnar might come back to discover that the girl (and maybe his little pet goat, too!) were that sacrifice to Thor that Aslaug mentioned.


Ah…nice. I hadn’t considered that but it is certainly something possible. The series has indicated on more than one occasion that human sacrifice is not beyond the pale within the show.


Aslaug seems to have her hands full and not just with her little boys! Ragnar seems to have a bit of the roaming eye, and she is threatened by it. Likely because she recalls how she got to the place she is now.


Is there where we ask about the pot and the kettle? Aslaug has clearly been bred to be the wife of a Jarl and she carries the role itself well in public, even if in private she gets snippy.


Aslaug is a völva (or Seer), but Ragnar doesn’t seem to put much stock in her predictions.


I found that term, völva, when I was researching for my Éire’s Viking trilogy. Ragnar should heed Aslaug, for the acknowledged women of her ilk were not so acknowledged without some evidence. 


In some of the old legends, she convinced Ragnar she was the daughter of Sigurd (and thus worthy of marriage) by predicting she would have a son with the snake marking in his eye. Would have been helpful if the Seer Ragnar visits would have said, “You know, you might want to listen to that new wife of yours. Just sayin’.”


That Seer is SO creepy. I get that Ragnar needs to check on his kids (he seems, by all accounts to be a good dad in both seasons. A better father than husband, perhaps.) but the Seer takes some kind of pleasure in teasing him. I feel the Seer is measuring information to ensure his job security.


When he was mourning Gyda, Ragnar said a man might be jealous of his sons, but a daughter was always a joy. It appears what the Seer told him may have spurred that jealousy, even before some of the sons are born! It’s prophecied his sons will go even further than he has, and Ragnar seems both elated and troubled by the idea.


Ragnar has depth to him. I think it’s natural for an ambitious man to feel some ambiguity about his own legacy, as it were. Yay! I’ll be famous! Yay! My sons’ll be famous, too! Oh…they’ll be more famous? Well, darn. Hm. How’s a man supposed to feel about that in an era in which winning renown is a huge thing?
Vikings 2 Aslaug and sonThe actor playing Ragnar’s second son is adorable!


He is! And I can’t get over what a loving father Ragnar is. I’ll probably still be talking about it next week.


He is! And I’m delighted the show is depicting the Vikings in such an in-depth manner. They weren’t the stereotypical savages sometimes depicted in film. They had loving families, and a highly sophisticted society. Ragnar, too, is a character that has depth. He may make bad decisions occasionally, and he can be a real jerk, but he loves his children and isn’t afraid to show it.


Ragnar denies his brother a chance to raid with them and regain his honor. Leaving Rollo behind seems the greater mistake, especially with Siggy eagerly spilling Ragnar’s secrets. And here she had me thinking she’d turned over a new leaf! You were right all along not to trust her. Siggy and Horik? Only makes sense, I suppose. But, lawd, girl … when Rollo finds out … I must say, though, the love scene between them was beautifully filmed. The tattoo, moving like waves beneath the ships.


vikings_season2_rollo ragnarI was pleased that Ragnar forgave his brother. The culture in which he lived might be ambiguous about that, but if Rollo had lived more honorably over the past four years, perhaps he’d have had more from his brother? I agree that leaving him behind—a man who has demonstrated a willingness to at least consider usurping the leadership role more than once, and who has been willing to take up arms to get his own way—is short-sighted on Ragnar’s part.


And Siggy! She seemed to be less ambitious while in the presence of Lagertha in the first episode this season. But yes. If Rollo isn’t going to step up and get her her status back, she might make a pact with Aslaug…or, as we saw, sleep with a king.  And yes, I loved the tattoos. Who did them for her, is what I wanted to know.


This history buff in me here interjects that the record for tattoos in this era is very scant. There are some descriptions of tattooed men, but we don’t know the design or significance of it, nor whether women were commonly tattooed. I know Charis in Éire’s Captive Moon is tattooed. What did your research uncover?
ECM smallWell, tattooing has been around for at least five millennia. In my research, the Romans had discovered a way to make ink that stayed in the skin, but most of the Europeans of the 9th Century (and I understand that VIKINGS is at least to the year AD 800 at this juncture) used woad but it faded and if the person wanted to keep the tattoo, it had to be re-etched periodically. In Rome, they found a way that used something closer to ink that incorporated pine needles and vinegar as well as minerals. This was a more permanent tattoo. In my books, Charis is tattooed with woad – but her supernatural qualities make it so that the woad doesn’t fade so quickly. Aislinn is tattooed with Roman ink that Cowan had learned about in his travels.


I had to chuckle, though, when Aslaug said to Siggy that women should stick together – and rule. You know, the trio of Lagertha, Aslaug, and Siggy together would have made the fiercest Viking rulers of all time, and the sound of their names would have stricken fear into the hearts of men all over the known world.


This is SO true. I do wonder what will become of this most recent alliance. If, indeed, it is an alliance. I see Aslaug as being thoroughly capable of double-dealing.


That soft sigh when Athelstan gave when he first laid eyes on his homeland gave me a pang in the heart. 


Oh, that was a lovely moment. Wordless but communicative. There he was, returning to his homeland, knowing that he had been preparing to make war against those who lived there. So the former priest was returning not with converts, but with an axe.


So, Floki decides he wants some fish sticks – 


– and History Channel favorited your remark about that on twitter. Nice!


and our Viking lads loll around on the grassy banks without even a few men on watch? I raised a bit of a brow at that, because it’s hard to believe the Northmen would be so careless. They’ve had clashes with the English before, and they know it’s not an undefended realm.


I think their casual attitude did a couple of things. One, the sea journey was rough and this was a way for them to relax before they got to work. Getting land legs back again was necessary (fighting direct from a long voyage would have been disconcerting!) as was having something to eat that wasn’t salted fish or some other kind of salted meat. Fresh fish, new greens, that sort of thing. And getting clean would have been a priority, too. All that water-play had to go to some purpose. The problem was that Ragnar relaxed rather too much and they were caught. 


Hearing the Old English again was a joy.


Oh, I had a huge smile on my face. 


vikings_season2_Athelstan shieldBut now Athelstan has joined them fully, becoming a warrior, drawing his first blood and earning his torc.


I do wonder how this will affect him, in the long term. He fought without having the drive for it at first, but when he had to come to someone else’s rescue – to defend another life – he moved quickly. And yes, the axe is a fine weapon for hand-to-hand combat.


We also meet King Egbert, enjoying a bit of a splash in his elegant Roman-style bath. Archaeological digs have uncovered a number of them in Wessex. Did they ever say what town they’re near in the story?


The pool was a very nice touch. The show called him Ecbert in the translations, which is about how it was spelled in the earliest documents folks have found. Egbert does tend to feel better, though, in my head.  I don’t remember if Ecbert’s countrymen gave a city for him in last night’s episode, though. I was just kind of enjoying the sound of the language. 🙂


I am very much looking forward to next week’s episode! What will King Ecbert do? Where is Lagertha? What is Siggy really up to? I need to get a recording of the VIKINGS theme song and put it on repeat…