Tuesday, August 25, 2015


It's been a really long, and at the same time, really short, summer. The bulk of it has been spent prepping DD's departure for college – we're now less than two weeks away from dropping her off. Not quite sure how I'm going to handle it, but I'm bringing lots of tissues, that's for sure! :D

The other time filler this summer is my latest book, the first in a new series, The Norsemen Sagas. The first book, Norseman's Revenge, will be available very soon – I'll be sharing that info, along with the cover, as soon as I have it.

When I first started planning this book, the History Channel's Vikings series was just kicking off. From the very first episode, I was hooked. Ragnar and company ensnared me in their world, and held me enthralled throughout. There were so many things to like about it – the powerful warriors, the feisty and strong women (Lagertha is still my biggest girl-crush), and the reality of the violence and sex. Intrigue, action, strong characters and sex. What more could I ask for?

I can't say who I love more – Ragnar, his brother Rollo, or Athelstan, the monk Ragnar captured as a slave in the first season. Many of the characters, Ragnar, Rollo, Lagertha, Princess Aslaug, were all real people. How realistically they are portrayed is open to debate – the Vikings didn't record a lot of their history in written form, and most of what is written was recorded after Christianity started to take over the culture. 

Ragnar started out a humble farmer, with a thirst for adventure and wealth. Now he's a king! He is conflicted, tormented and determined. All the things I love in a hero (or anti-hero, as the case may be).


Rollo, Ragnar's brother, is a complex character who drew me in with his conflicting behaviors and reactions. He's been an outcast, and villain, an ally and more to Ragnar, and he is  one hell of a warrior. I believe his battle persona is based on Berserkers, Viking warriors who were unstoppable and seemingly immortal to many of those they faced. It's believed that Berserkers ingested a hallucinogenic to put them in that state of mind. I suspect Rollo doesn't need anything to help him get there.

Athelstan, the monk/slave turned warrior and Ragnar's best friend is another deep and complex character. His powerful faith takes quite a few hits and he begins to understand the Vikings way of life, to assimilate and become one of them, so much so that when Ragnar leads another raid to England, Athelstan joins them. He straddles two worlds, neither one with complete ease.

Lagertha, Ragnar's first wife, is a shield maiden who doesn't take any crap from any man. She is as fierce as any of them on the battlefield and she isn't afraid to step in and defend those in danger. One of my favorite all time scenes is one between her and Ragnar, when she confronts him about cheating on her. The two of them physically go after each other, hitting and shoving, and in between, kissing with a passion that literally leapt right out of the TV. She gives as good as she gets and won't back down from her beliefs and standards. She's gorgeous and kick-ass – like I said, I have quite a girl-crush on her! :D

Anyway, the characters in the show have me caught up in their spell, and I never want it to end. Even when my heart is wrenched out of my chest through my throat, I am unable to look away. It's that level of emotion that I hoped to bring to my own Vikings.

I finished Norseman's Revenge well over a year ago, but held off on publishing it because I was testing out a few things. While doing that, it enabled me to wrap up Book 4 in the Bayou Magiste Chronicles, Book 3 of the Medieval Warrior's series and get started on the second Viking book. When my testing came to an end a couple months ago, I made the decision to go ahead and self-publish The Norsemen Sagas. Sometime in the coming weeks, I will have pre-order information for Norseman's Revenge. At the same time, I am wrapping up book 2, Norseman's Deception. Book 3 is in the early planning stages now.

Anyway, here's the blurb and a little snippet of Norseman's Revenge. Enjoy!

Kidnapped by a Viking raider on her wedding night might really be a blessing from the gods.

Geira Sorensdotter awaits her new husband, but she's filled with doubts about the man and the marriage. Those doubts are forgotten when the village is attacked, her husband is struck down and she is tied up and carried off amidst the raid.

Kori Thorfinnson has waited years to take revenge against the man who murdered his wife. But he soon finds the innocent young woman he's taken as his personal slave is not his enemy, despite her marriage to his foe. Her courage in defying him, her caring heart, and the fiery passion she shares stirs feelings Kori hasn't known since his wife died. Afraid to lose Geira, he binds her to him in many ways – not only with rope, but with his body, his collar and his mark. 

Geira quickly learns just how despicable her husband was, and despite her difficult circumstances, grows to care deeply for Kori, her captor. Still, dreams of freedom linger. But once she finds herself with child, she must plan her escape, to save herself and her baby. However, Kori has plans of his own.

Warning, this excerpt contains sexual content and violence:

Another stroke of Einnar's hand and Geira forced herself to concentrate, willing her body to respond to his touch. Surprisingly, it did, her nipples peaking into tight buds. The sensation was far less intense than she hoped.

"We will share many pleasures in this marriage. Trust me on this."

His voice had thickened, deepened. His desire came easily. Why didn't hers? She took a deep breath, determined to hide her true feelings.

"I do, it's just –"

The door crashed open, screams of terror and pain now filling the air. In the doorway, a hulking dark warrior stood, sword raised.

Einnar leapt to his feet, diving for the pile of clothes where his own sword lay. He barely had a chance to raise it when the other warrior swung, forcing Einnar into a defensive position. Geira screamed, terror pounding in her head. 

"Einnar of Fellsskoger, I claim my vengeance!" The invader's voice thundered within the small hut.

Geira scrambled out of the bed when the intruder fixed his furious stare on her.  Cold fear pooled in her belly when he strode across the room. Another slice at Einnar sent her husband to the floor, clutching his gut.

"Einnar!" she shrieked and attempted to run toward him. The warrior caught her by the arm before she darted past. She kicked and pummeled him with her free hand, but he quickly captured her other wrist, forcing them both into his tight grip.

"Bastard! Let me go!" She looked over at her husband, who struggled to his feet, sword in hand.

"Unhand my bride!" His voice was not nearly as strong as before, blood seeping from the wound slashing his stomach.

Geira fought the urge to retch, focusing instead on pulling against the restraining grip of her captor. She swore at him, unable to free herself. His strength overpowered her, her attempts to escape futile. Hopelessness welled within, but she forced it aside, refusing to stop fighting, twisting and squirming against his hold.

"She is mine now, repayment for your crimes against me!"

The booming words sent ice along her spine and Geira froze.

"What? No, I am not yours! Let me go!"

She caught Einnar's stare and her blood chilled. He knew exactly what this giant meant. Anger speared the fear, escalating her panic. What had her husband done? The earlier doubts flashed again in her mind. Had she been right all along, and everyone else so terribly wrong?

"Einnar, what does he mean?"

He took an unsteady step toward her, then another before collapsing to the floor. She screamed again, and tugged against her captor, surprised at how quickly he released her, making her stumble. Just as quickly, she was brought up short by the rope now binding her wrists.

"By the blood of Odin I will see you dead!" she swore. Fright left her limbs heavy and trembling. The strength to stand seeped from her legs, yet she somehow remained upright.

The warrior threw his head back and laughed. "You can try, but it's useless to fight."

"You killed my husband." She looked at Einnar's lifeless body.

"He earned it. He's lucky I killed him so quickly!"

Geira choked on a sob, drawn by fear of her own fate, rather than her husband's. "Please let me go. I don't know what this is about. I've done nothing to you. Please. Let me see to him."

A fierce stare accompanied a shake of his head. "He's dead."

Einnar's blood pooled beneath him, the puddle growing larger. Oddly, Geira felt no real sadness. Squeezing her eyes shut, she turned away from her dead husband.

The raider tugged on the rope, drawing her close, then bent, hoisting her onto his shoulder. She kicked and screamed, pounding his back with her bound fists.

He strode through the open door. Geira twisted and tried to free herself, lifting her head. She froze at the sight greeting her.

Everywhere, the huts and homes of the clan burned, the longhouse where the celebration had been taking place also eaten by flames. Judging from the screams, many people remained trapped inside. Her stomach rolled, sweat ran down her face, mingling with tears. Shrieks, shouts and the sounds of weapons clanging together filled her senses. Grunts and bellows of pain pounded her ears. The entire village was under attack. The acrid scent of smoke mingled with the bitter smell of spilled blood, nearly choking her.

Where were her brother and father? Perhaps their disappearance saved them from the slaughter now taking place. The urge to weep grew stronger. All around, bodies littered the ground. No! That wasn't… it was, she realized, recognizing one of the women from her village. An agonized howl escaped her. The warrior continued on his way and her clanswoman's body disappeared from Geira's view.

Terrified she was about to meet the same fate, she squirmed, searching the chaos, desperate to find someone to help.

"Papa!" she cried, hoping someone in her family would hear. But her voice was drowned by the sounds of battle, the screech and thud of weapons against flesh, shrieks of terror and agony, and wailing sobs. She offered a silent prayer to Thor to keep her father safe, wherever he might be.

As the giant continued to stride out of the village and to the water, she realized he carried her away instead of raping and killing her here. Why?

She fought again, pounding the man with her fists, trying uselessly to kick against the arm wrapped around her legs. His hand slammed into her ass, briefly startling her into stillness, but just as quickly she fought once more. Again, the giant's hand came down hard on her rear and she screamed her outrage. It did nothing to stop him. All too quickly, they were at the water's edge and he paused only to shift her before making his way to the boat anchored at the shore.

"No! Let me go!"

Her efforts to free herself failed again and soon she found herself on the oselvar, roughly shoved to a seat in the middle. Shocked at the speed with which she'd been captured, she fell momentarily still.

The calm of the water seemed a cruel joke against the sounds of the village's destruction. She looked around. Several more small oselvars sat nearby, bobbing eerily in the water. She wanted to scream her rage, but none would hear her over the din. The boat she found herself on was already manned and on the move when her captor gave the order to push away from shore. She started to rise, thinking to throw herself over the side, but the giant forced her to her seat once more, settling across from her. His legs surrounded hers, holding her captive. She looked around, but all other possible ways to escape were filled with men now rowing furiously.

"You are going nowhere. Disobey, try to flee, and you will suffer for it."

"Bastard! My father and brother will kill you for this." If they still lived. She forced the thought aside. Their disappearance from the feast offered a glimmer of hope that maybe they'd escaped the attack. If so, surely they would search for her.

He grinned, shaking his head. Her breath caught. Without the glowering fury in his face, she might almost think him handsome. Almost. If he wasn't such a monster.

"They'll never find me. Or you."

Fear chilled her heart. He reached out a hand to her face and she flinched away. The remnants of his smile faded.

"You can accept your fate and things will go much easier for you."

"What fate?"

His hand covered her cheek, sliding back to cup her head. He drew her close.

"Your new life. As my ambátt."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Various Journeys of Research

Embarking on a career as a romance fiction novelist, one of the first things I learned I had to do well was research. Whether it be the time, or the place, or both, when my book takes place, what my characters do for a living, I better know my facts. Even when I'm making up my own alternate worlds or history, there have to be "facts" about whatever that world is.

Back in my early days of writing, there was no internet, so just about all of my research was dependent on paper books - libraries and bookstores were frequent haunts. I amassed quite a collection of books about the times I wrote in, the clothing and cuisine of various cultures and eras, and covering a wide array of other subjects pertinent to whatever period I found myself writing in.  I remember the days when we first moved in the house, had no kids (other than my dearly departed - and still missed - Beezer, a black cat w/six toes on her front feet who liked to sit in my lap as I wrote), and what is now my son's bedroom was my office. I had two desks - one with the word processor/computer, the other covered with a ton of books opened and flagged, highlighted and dog-eared so I could refer back to the facts as needed. Wow. Haven't thought about those days in a really long time - have to say, I think I like the little corner in the far end of the basement I have now even better. lol

The advent of the internet changed a lot of things for me. Suddenly, I could find the books I needed online and bought as many as I could, cutting down on time spent in bookstores. And libraries – I no longer had to renew a book for months on end – I now had my very own copy! I'd spend hours immersed in those books, looking for the right detail to include to propel the plot.

A few years later, the internet offered still more – papers and articles and blog posts started appearing and, suddenly, I could find just about anything I needed online. I bookmarked tons of pages, saved a million more, and even printed many of them so I could have the info on hand without having to go back out to the web while writing.

I learned how to use certain terms in my searches for info, so I could pinpoint just what I needed, and in the process, discovered some amazing sites. Sites that held me enthralled with the information they covered. And herein lay the problem –  it's fairly simple to get caught up reading about something, but on the internet, it's so much easier to get lost in the search for details. Read one article and there's usually a link to somewhere else with still more info, maybe even a link to something never seen or heard of before during all the other research sessions.And another link, and another, and yeah, you see what I mean, right?

A great many of my research hunts went (and still go) something like this:

"Did people do this then? Insert various years and cultures. There, that's the one. Click. OK, not quite what I needed, but wait, that's pretty cool, wonder how to make that fit into the WIP. What's this? Another link? Hmm, wonder what that means. Click. Oooooh, yes, that looks like just what I was looking for. Click. Never heard of THAT before, but it sure would fit perfectly into that other scene. Click. Who knew? Another factoid that will come in handy. Click. Click. Click. Etc., etc., etc. Wait, how did THREE HOURS pass by so fast?"

Yeah, it's so obvious I love the research aspect of writing, and I suspect just about every author does, no matter what they write, but dang, it takes little to no effort to get lost on a never-ending journey, and while it's a journey that teaches so much, the downside is losing writing time. There are a few things I learned from this after really being annoyed that I could have whipped out several pages to a chapter, or even more, instead of searching for minutiae about my setting.

First, whatever series I am working on, I need to figure out when and where the story takes place. Then I do a quick rundown of the sites and/or books that will provide me the most details about what I need to make each scene realistic, and read through those sites/books in the very beginning stages of the novel. One thing I learned - every two or three websites with the info I needed simply reinforced facts I'd dug up long ago in my personal hard-copy library. I'll give the internet points for being a bit faster.

The other thing I've chosen to do in many of my books is to use more detail in some scenes than in others. There are a few reasons I do this. One is that, as a reader, I actually like to fill in some of the details myself, when it comes to certain story aspects. The other is that too much detail can drown out important interactions between the characters. No doubt using details specific to the time and place make the story come alive. Lord knows I have lists (in spreadsheet form, natch! :D ) of some of the most fascinating factoids I will always be searching for a way to include in a book. Still, it's the characters who drive the book for me, and that is almost always my main focus when writing, even when there's a lot of action in various scenes.

I have to admit, finding obscure nuggets of info that I can and have turned into gems of a plot point are the most rewarding results of a research journey. For instance, when I stumbled across the official proclamations made at the execution of the Welsh prince, Dafydd, I knew I had to include it in Warrior's Possession in an attempt to make the history come alive. The execution scene is one that has always been part of the book, but now, to me, it had even more impact, giving a bit of insight into Edward I and the thoughts of many of the nobility (and even the entire population) of the time.

But I must be careful when exploring - I suspect a good portion of authors can attest to greeting the sun when it rises after spending hours seeking out tidbits that enhance and propel their story. The allure of discovering the fascinating trivia of a time or place that contributes to our world-building is as alluring as putting that world into words.

Knowing I'm not the most disciplined person in the world has led me to put some self-imposed requirements on my research. For instance, there's now a set time-limit for jaunts, especially if they happen to coincide with writing time. Honestly, sometimes, you just have to go find some logical item/factoid to keep the scene going. I either cut myself off after a set time (usually 10 minutes max), or limit myself to when I find that one detail needed at that specific moment (if it happens to be found before the time limit max). And even if there is no logical reason to include those other details, they will come in handy someday. You know I have notes to go back and dig deeper through for even more stories. ;) 

On another note, Warrior's Possession is available through most online distributors - now including NOOK at Barnes & Noble! Here's where you can get your hand on this scorching erotic romance that's so hot, it just might fry your Kindle  (or Nook)!

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/warriors-possession-gianna-simone/1122431121
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/warriors-possession/id1024730697?mt=11