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."
His hand covered her cheek, sliding back to cup her head. He drew her close.
"Your new life. As my ambátt."