Sunday, 3 August 2014

Waiting for Vikings - Season 3

The third season of Vikings is still months away, but while you're waiting you can kill time by reading some of my earlier blog posts about the TV-series and about the sagas and legends on which it is build. I will also recommend you to go further and read The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok.




Here are posts about Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok, Aslaug, and other legendary and historical persons in the series:






Review of Vikings Season 2

Ragnar, Lagertha and Bjorn are ready for season 3 of Vikings

Ragnar, Lagertha and Rollo are ready for season 3 of Vikings


For all who want to read alternative Viking stories, I have written two novellas (The Slayer Rune and The Lethal Oath) and I'm working on a third (The Red Gold). You can also follow me on Facebook.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Wardruna - the sound of Vikings

Wardruna - Gap var Ginnunga


The Norwegian group Wardruna has a project called Runaljod - "the sound of runes". It is a project that goes far beyond the staves of the runes. To understand their deeper meanings, Wardruna examines the old runes in their mythological context. In their music we can feel Odin's pain when he pierces himself with his spear and hangs himself from Yggdrasil, the world tree, in order to get the ultimate insight. In Wardruna's  music we hear ravens croak, hooves of horses pulling the sun, and a pack of wolves baying behind, indicating that Ragnarok is inevitable.

Wardruna live. Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, Gaahl, Linda-Fey Hella

Wardruna has gone further. The members - Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, Linda-Fey Hella and Gaahl - have realized that runes have to be interpreted as a specific kind of practise. Their music is inspired by heavy metal and traditional Nordic folk music, and to reach a genuine feel of runes, the Wardruna members have reconstructed old instruments and uses frame drums, ceremonial drums, harps (Viking-fiddles), mouth harps, and a variety of flutes in their music. Their sound is truly unique: it's both genuinely Viking and very modern at the same time. No wonder it is used to create atmosphere in Vikings, the TV-series.



I'm sorry I didn't discover Wardruna before. Their first CD (in a trilogy) - Runaljod - Gap var Ginnunga - came in 2009 and the second - Runaljod - Yggdrasil - in 2013. In the same period - and much longer - I have been interested in Norse mythology and Old Icelandic literature, and last year I published the two first books in a Vikings series: The Slayer Rune and The Lethal Oath. As the titles suggest, the first has the magical powers of runes as an action-driving theme, and the second deals with the dangers of breaking sacred oaths.

In my stories seidr, galdr, rune magic, and shape-shifting are no fantasies but hard facts of reality. The life of Sigve the Awful is weaved by the Norns, but Sigve's luck and  prosperity depends on his own courage and ability to make his fate. But, like all others, Sigve depends on Thor's strength, Freya's erotic powers, and Odin's cunning and support. I addition to telling exciting stories, in my books I'm trying to give a modern interpretation of life in the Viking Age. In this ambition I feel very much in tune with Wardruna and their music. I would have wished, however, like the producers of the TV-series Vikings,  that I could have put Wardruna's sounds to my stories.



Wednesday, 18 June 2014

New edition of The Slayer Rune


John Snow. The Slayer Rune. Cover Image.


A second edition of The Slayer Rune is now available on Amazon (with The Lethal Oath soon to follow). The new edition of The Slayer Rune is thoroughly copyedited by Karen Conlin, who has done wonders to my text. The book has also got a new cover designed by Stephen Mulcahey who has made covers for Lee Child, Frederick Forsyth and other great authors. Stephen has also made new cover for The Lethal Oath and the third book in the series: The Red Gold.

BUY THE BOOK AND ENJOY!

The Slayer Rune on Amazon.com
The Slayer Rune on Amazon.co.uk


John Snow. The Lethal Oath. Cover Image.


John Snow. The Red Gold. Cover Image.


Viking market, June 2014, Hafrsfjord, Stavanger, Norway




Sunday, 11 May 2014

Old oak forests and the Oseberg ship

This morning I went hiking in a primeval oak forest. The old, twisted oaks thrive in the hillsides of a narrow valley along with birch, elm and linden trees. At the bottom of the vale a hiking path threads its way along "Uråa" , which means "the brook under the scree". I Norway spring is now at its most intense with plants blooming, woods turning green, and birds singing like crazy. On my way into the ravine, I past a precipice and heard the hoarse croaks of a pair of ravens, but I saw none of them.


Both oaks and linden trees take on strange shapes in the primeval forest.


Oaks are among the last trees to come into leaves
and this old giant is among the latest of the late.
In the old days large oak forests covered much of Southern Norway before the woods were cut down and the timber exported to the Netherlands and England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Back in the Viking Age the oak and pine forests were essential to the building and development of the Viking ships. Pine delivered timber for the strakes and masts, and oak, with its variety of forms, gave solid and enduring materials for knees, ribs, curved stems, keels and all the different shapes needed in the construction of a Viking ship, whether they were slender warships - longships - or heavy merchant ships - knorrs.

The Oseberg ship at The Vikingship Museum in Oslo.
The famous Oseberg ship may very well have had timber from the very wood I was visiting this morning. The ship was used in a burial in Eastern Norway, but examinations have shown that the trees used in the Oseberg ship were cut in the southern part of Western Norway.

Building a replica of the Oseberg ship.
Walking in the oak forest and watching the warped and crooked oak branches, I thought of my novels, and I could easily imagine Sigve the Awful's shipwrights walking the woods around Vik, searching for  materials for their shipbuilding. But on my return down the path beside the brook, I passed the precipice once more, and again I heard the ravens caw without seeing them. This time one of them was laughing a very hoarse laughter, and in the car back home I wondered whether it was Huginn, "thought"  or Muninn, "memory" who so overtly had been mocking me.




Friday, 9 May 2014

Viking sheep of many colours



When I look out my windows, I see sheep of many colours grazing in the fields around a replica of a Norwegian Iron Age farm from the centuries before the Viking Age. In my Viking stories the hero Sigve the Awful wears woollen clothes, usually woven from natural wool, which of course doesn't mean that Sigve's cloaks were colourless. If Viking sheep only remotely resembled the sheep that are pastured in my neighbourhood, Sigve's clothes would have been very colourful indeed.

















Friday, 4 April 2014

Swords in Rock and Harald Fairhair


The "Swords in Rock" monument seems to be an everlasting motif in the online Viking communities. I took this picture this evening just an hour before sunset. Spring is coming to Norway – now the days are longer than the nights – but only a week ago the weather still was grey, as shown in the photo below. 

Swords in Rock monument

"Swords in Rock" is a sculpture made by Fritz Røed. It is placed in Møllebukta (the Miller's Bay), which is a very popular recreation area in Stavanger. I ofte take an evening stroll along the seaside in Miller's Bay, experiencing the nature and the historical surroundings.

The Miller's Bay and the monument lie at the bottom of Hafrsfjord, where the famous King Harald Fairhair won a great battle in 872 AD. Having defeated a lot of petty kings supported by the Danes, he is regarded as the king who united Norway into one kingdom.

Harald Fairhair
Could Harald Fairhair have
looked like this?
King Harald Fairhair had several wives and fathered a lot of sons, who after his death fought among themselves for supremacy. Eric Bloodaxe were among the sons, and so was Hakon the Good, who was fostered by King Æthelstan in England. Coming home from England, Hakon defeated Eirik Bloodaxe, his brother, who fled to Northumbria where he later became king. After a few years Eirik's sons took revenge and killed Hakon the Good in a fierce battle on the West Coast of Norway.

Among Eirik Bloodaxe's sons, Harald Greycloak was the most prominent, and he is a major figure in "The Viking Series" (in which "The Slayer Rune" and "The Lethal Oath" are the first books, and Sigurd (who is later to be called Sigve The Awful) is the main character).

In the books, set a hundred years after the Battle of Hafrsfjord, the descendents of Harald Fairhair still fight over lands and power, and Sigve the Awful finds himself squeezed in the middle between Harald Greycloak and Godred Bjornson, another of Fairhair's powerful grandsons.

At this time in history, the Norwegian kings had close relations to the kings in England, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia, and Sigve the Awful, who becomes a great warrior and swordsman, will in the Viking Series soon have his hands full in the struggles between the mighty kings. Exactly how Sigve will manoeuvre in these struggles are among the things I ponder when I stroll along the beaches in Hafrsfjord watching the Swords in Rock sculpture.

In the first two books, young Sigurd is still trying to find his place in his Viking world. A task that becomes very complicated when he falls in love with the mysterious thrall girl Yljali.

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Viking novella for only $0.99!

A new episode of Vikings is due, and for the remaining period of season 2 of this wonderful TV series you can buy The Slayer Rune for the special price of $0.99! The book is a historical action-adventure novella and the first instalment in a series from the Viking Age. The second book is titled The Lethal Oath ($2.99).


Vikings. Bjorn, son of Ragnar Lothbrok. Bjorn's first battle.
I can't wait to see Bjorn's first fight.
 Bjorn, in Vikings, being the son of Ragnar Lothbrok and Lagertha.

There is a growing interest in the Viking Age, and modern people seem to be inspired by the Vikings at multiple levels of myth, legend, and actual history. Movies like Valhalla Rising and TV series like Vikings include both mythological and historical elements, even if creative uses of legendary motives seem to dominate. Authors like Bernard Cornwell, Robert Low, J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin are all deeply influenced by Viking culture and Norse mythology, and the lyrics by music bands such as Amon Amarth are all about Odin, Loki and Ragnarok. In this blog I try to cover some aspect of the profound influence the Viking Age has on modern popular culture.

I also write Viking stories in the form of short novels, and without making invidious comparisons, in my books I try to create a world and an atmosphere in which social, mythological and historical events are equally important in the lives and experiences of my characters. Even if the stories contain supernatural elements, the books are nevertheless realistic in the sense that long-forgotten creatures, powers, and gods are treated as if they were real, an integral part of the world in which I imagine Sigurd and his family lived. For me it is extremely inspiring try to describe the feelings and sensations of my characters as realistically as possible and at the same time create action and suspense for the readers.

When I put so much effort into writing my Viking stories as entertaining as possible, I also hope to get as many readers as possible. For some weeks, therefore, the first book in the series will be sold for the give-away price of $0.99. Buy it and enjoy yourself!



John Snow. The Slayer Rune. Special prize: $0.99

Amazon.com
(NOW $0.99!)
Amazon.co.uk

The Slayer Rune - book description:
The Slayer Rune is an historical action-adventure novella with slight supernatural elements. In this first instalment in the new series, the stage is set in Norway in AD 967. Young Sigurd, the chieftain's son, is in love with Yljali, a pretty, foreign thrall girl. Helgi Blackbeard, the king's captain-of-arms, has also discovered Yljali's beauty, and he wants to possess her. Helgi Blackbeard is a powerful man, but he is not the only one lusting for the girl. Harald the Chieftain, Sigurd's father, often looks in her direction. 

Sigurd does not fight his battles alone. The old and mysterious Grim reveals the secrets of the runes to Sigurd, and Gisli, the captain-of-arms at Vik, has promised him a very special sword – Gisli's own blade. But when Sigurd decides to act, he sparks off a chain of events that no one is able to control.
    
The Slayer Rune is the first book in The Viking Series.


John Snow. The Lethal Oath

Amazon.com
($2.99)
Amazon.co.uk

The Lethal Oath - book description:
The Lethal Oath, the second book in The Viking Series, continues the late-Viking Age saga of Sigve the Awful – begun in The Slayer Rune.

Despite his young age - and mostly because of the slayer rune, the spell that quicken Sigve's sword and grant superhuman strength to him as its wielder - Sigve has gained a reputation as a swordsman. At the opening of this second instalment, Sigve becomes the youngest chieftain in King Godred's realm. During the inaugural feast, he swears a sacred oath on his blade, only to discover it stands in the way of his bedding Yljali – the mysterious, beautiful thrall who, along with Sigve and Grim, knows the secret of the slayer rune.

He breaks the oath with dire consequences. He looses control of his sexual desires; he finds himself in conflict with both his mother and his captain-of-arms, and he becomes deeply involved in the war between King Godred and Harald Greyfell, two mighty kings. Soon Sigve has to fight for Yljali, for the people at Vik, and for his own survival.

Odd the Squinter, Skarphedin the Second-Sighted, and Sigrunn Silkyhair continue their roles in this segment of the story, and new players arrive: Kale Curved-Cock, and his daughter, the Body, among them. Sigve continues to make poor decisions under the blinding influence of his lust for Yljali, ignoring the words of his one-eyed tutor, Grim: Everyone's life is entangled in the great struggle between order and chaos.


And then, there is Odin …

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Review of Vikings Season 2

(SPOILERWARNING)
After two episodes in the second season of Vikings, we see a new conflict evolve, between Ragnar Lothbrok and King Ecbert, ruler of Wessex. On their voyage to raid in Northumbria, the fleet of Earl Ragnar and King Horik runs into a storm, gets out of course, and lands in Wessex. Here they meet King Ecbert's warriors.

Rollo in season 2 of Vikings
Going into battle bare-headed and stripped to the waist.
Not a very smart way to face sharpened longaxes,
swords and spears.

It took nearly two episodes to establish a new conflict in the series. In episode one, nothing much happened. The old conflicts were renewed: Lagertha had to give way for Aslaug, Ragnar's new woman, and Lagertha left him, taking their son Bjørn with her. Ragnar is still in conflict with his brother Rollo and with Jarl Borg. Of course the whole season opened with a great  battle full of blood and killing, very well made. Such battle scenes nevertheless make me reflect on how much film depends on showing events visually. In the turmoil of battle, for viewers to be able see who is fighting who, the creators (in this case Michael Hirst) have to strip the heroes of their helmets, and in Vikings even of their mail. To let warriors fight without any forms of protection, stripped to their waists, may be sexy, but in real life it would have been sheer stupidity.


Anyway,  having seen the Season 2 Trailer on YouTube, many fans of the series feared that Floki would die, but he survived the battle, and in episode two has finished building Ragnar's fleet and made it ready to sail west into new battles. In England the conflict with Ecbert will develop, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the episodes. As in the first season, the show has lots of exiting characters, good action, and realistic Viking settings. I'm sure the conflicts will deepen, and I'm also sure that more unrealistic battle scenes will impress both me and many other fans.


 


On the blog I've written more post about Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok, Aslaug, and other legendary and historical persons in the series:






For all who want to read Viking stories, I have written two novellas (The Slayer Rune and The Lethal Oath) and I'm working on a third (Gold).



For an analysis of the use of mythological symbols in this teaser, go to The Viking Rune (blog).