Guest Post – Viking Swords

Today I welcome a fellow writer of Historical Fiction. Jen Black’s books cover different periods, but all, I think take place in Scotland or involve Scottish history. This week her new book, Viking Bride, is published. It is set in the eleventh century, in the time of Macbeth, and is about Vikings – but we won’t hold that against her. Welcome Jen.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08192245X


Hello – I’m Jen Black and I’m stealing space on Christine’s blog today to announce my latest publication ~ VIKING BRIDE. Briefly, it is a historical romance, but with lots of action and excitement as well for those who like a little more adventure.

It is set in the isle of Lewis around AD1040 when MacBeth was High King of Alba and the Vikings were settling down as neighbours and farmers rather than rampaging warriors anxious to lop off heads. They remained a dominant force in any area they chose to settle and dangerous to those who dared to argue with them. Among themselves, I am sure they were as happy, miserable, compassionate, cruel, cynical, greedy, envious and bloody-minded as people everywhere can be today.

They had many stories to tell around the fireside. Most people associate Vikings with swords and axes, shields and spears. Maybe a bow and arrow. But the predominant weapon of myth and fable was the sword, often very old and with a personal name.

They were expensive; a hand-made pattern-welded blade could be worth as much as £250,000 in our terms if the hilt furniture was jewelled or finished in precious metal. Mystical powers were attributed to them and Skofnung is a good example.

Not only a very special sword, Skofnung had a life stone which offered healing powers to those it had injured. Skofnung’s first owner was King Hrolf Kraki of Denmark and Skofnung was buried with him inside the mound at Roskilde.

Two hundred years later, Skeggi of Vlidfirtlz in Iceland broke into the mound and removed a good deal of treasure, including Skofnung. In the dry and air-tight burial chamber, Skofnung was clean, bright and covered in dried lanolin. With that cleaned off, it was as good as the day it was made.

A warrior called Kormac faced a duel with Bersi, a professional duellist, and decided his sword wasn’t up to the mark. Bersi had a sword called Hviting, which had its own life-stone and Kormac’s did not; also, his blade bent after a few hard strokes. Kormac’s mother suggested he’d better see if he could borrow Skofnung from Skeggi. Kormac did so, and Skeggi refused to lend his sword.

On his mother’s insistence he tried again, and this time Skeggi agreed, but gave Kormac lots of instructions about using the sword. No woman could look upon it, the sun should not be allowed to shine on it for too long and he must breathe on the blade as he withdraw the sword from the bag which protected it. Breathing on the blade would allow the luck of the sword to swim out into the pattern and if luck was with him Kormac would see the snake moving in the fuller.

Kormac wasn’t impressed and laughed. When he took Skofnung home he wanted to show it to his mother but could not remove the protective bag. When Kormac tore off the bag, Skofnung howled and refused to leave the bag and howled even louder when Kormac put his foot on the bag and dragged out the sword. The snake vanished into the hilt.

At this Skeggi reclaimed his sword and in time handed it on to his son Eid, who then loaned it to a man called Thekrell and to his son Gellir, who died at Roskilde. No doubt Skofnung was buried with him, very close to the mound from which it had originally been plundered, for no more was ever heard of Skofnung.

Lesser known weapons, but probably more likely to be owned and used every day, were the various shapes and sizes of saex common to the Viking age. A langsaex, as the name suggests, had a blade a good deal longer that the shorter and more common scramsaex which came in all shapes and sizes from a common eating knifr to a blade inscribed with runes and inserted into a patterned hilt. Such weapons have their own history, and Skofnung even has an island, Skofnungsey, named after it. I almost used the masculine pronoun for him in that last sentence…

And now back to my new book!
Here’s the blurb:

It was a marriage no one wanted.

Least of all the Borgunna and Asgeir.

When chieftain Ragnar and his friend Grettir force the marriage on their offspring they had no idea of the powerful feelings they would unleash, nor the dreadful consequences that would follow. Set in the Hebrides in the eleventh century, when Christianity was taking hold in Viking communities settling down as farmers and neighbours, the old familiar gods had not quite been forgotten.

Viking Bride 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08192245X

If any of you read Far After Gold then you will recognise Flane ~ he re-appears in this story as wedding guest and distant cousin of chieftain Ragnar.
Find it here: https://tinyurl.com/wras6vg

I have a degree in English and worked in academic libraries in the north east of England until retirement a few years ago. That’s when I began writing seriously and there are now twelve novels with my name on them – all historicals bar one.

Jen Black Author

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I have a Facebook Author page: @JenBlackauthor should find me.
and my books are listed on Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jen-Black/e/B003BZ8JNQ
My blog is https://jenblackathor.blogspot.com. I would be delighted to see you at any or all of them!

Thank you, Jen, for such an informative article. Byrhtnoth will be visiting Scotland in Part 4 of the Byrhtnoth Chronicles, so I will be reading your book with interest.

NaNoWriMo 2019 – Halfway There

Last year I took part in NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month, when mad writers attempt to write 50,000 words in one month (November). I had heard other writers talking about it and had a go, just to see if I could do it and I “won” – sounds good doesn’t it? All it means is that I reached the total number of words within the time limit. (I managed it with a day to spare, if I remember rightly.)

This year I am doing it again.
Why?

It’s not as if I have plenty of time to waste – the aim of the exercise is to write something new – not carry on writing what you would be doing normally. As you may have noticed, this blog has been rather neglected of late.

Back in April, I stuck my toe into the world of self-publishing with Bright Axe, book two of the Byrhtnoth Chronicles. It was so easy, I carried on and published book three, Bright Blade, last month (October 12th). Why the rush? Well I had booked a table at the Southam Book Festival held on the 20th of that month, for myself and several other authors from Rugby Cafe Writers. We had attended in 2018 and had quite a successful day. And I wanted to see all three books together. Don’t they look nice?

Over the summer, while the editing etc was going on in the background, I was writing book four in the series. As it grew I worried. If you have read previous posts you will know that, although I have a vague idea of the outline, I don’t normal plan my books. This time, I did plan. It ran to a whole two sides of A4, a list of the main points to be covered, where the mid-point came and all those other technical things – I was quite proud of it! The problem was that I have got to 60,000 words and only reached section seven (of 22!) It is all very emotional, with lots of tension, but nothing had really happened – nothing that a reader of this sort of book would expect. I carried on, because I couldn’t stop, but with the knowledge that most of it would have to be dumped.

It was at this point I had to stop to deal with the publication of Bright Blade. The problem simmered in the background.
Was this new WIP one book or two?
Should I drop the angst altogether and get on with the plot?
And what was next? I had already decided that the story would end with this book. Was I ready to let go and write something different? Perhaps using the 50,000 words from last year’s NaNoWriMo (My time travel novel)

From this chaos rose another idea. Yes, book four, whatever it was, would be the last of that plot arc, but the story would continue, with a different character in the spotlight, and it would be a different type of book, more of a historical detective style. It seemed like a good idea, but do I have the sort of twisted brain to write a detective novel?

This is where NaNoWriMo comes in. I could start this new book at the beginning of November. Within a month I would know whether I was capable of writing this sort of thing, or not. If I manage it, then I have the basic first draft of what I am calling book five. If I fail, I will have got it out of my system. I can forget about it and get on with problematical book four.

And that is the beauty of NaNoWriMo. It frees you from the straight and narrow. Allows you to to attempt something you never thought you could do – a bit like a holiday, really.

Except it is hard work. You are committing to writing an average of 1,667 words. It doesn’t seem that much, but that is every day, for 30 days. If you go out for the day, you must write when you return, or write twice the amount the next day. I find it easier to bank the extra words beforehand.
It forces you to write, even when you don’t want to write. The fear of falling behind is a great incentive!

So – how am I doing? The halfway point came on 15th November and I should have reached 25k words. I must confess that I fell short – one hundred and twenty four words short. My total had only reached 24, 876. My only excuse was that I went out and bought a helmet, a proper Anglo-Saxon helmet. It’s not an excuse I have ever had occasion to use before, but more about that another time.

It is now late on 17th November and today was difficult, the words had to be forced out, but my total is now 29,170. I must be ahead because the statistics tell me I am due to finish on Nov 29th. To prove it, this is what my progress looks like:

There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve not got a lot on for the next couple of days and as long as the dots stay above the line I’m OK.

I’m not sure I would like to do this sort of thing all the time, but for a month it is exhilarating – and it distracts you completely from Christmas preparations!

I’ll be back in two weeks to report on whether I reached the target and if I produced anything worthwhile.