Viking Tid Bits 3

robynn

When Vikings wrote, they used what we call runes. The word above is actually my name, Robynn. Not much is known about Vikings and they didn’t leave much behind in writing. Some have theorized they were not educated and so not many knew how to write. Some think that because they used less permanent writing materials, not much was left behind. Either way, we do know they did use runes and what is left behind can be found in carvings or stone.

They were a superstitious people. Words to them were magic and held great power. Maybe to write it down was to allow it to have a life of its own. But despite what we know or don’t know of them, we can fill in the holes with educated guessing. The study of anthropology shows us that there is a common thread among all of us. Ancient or current.

And one thing that has not changed, words do indeed, hold great power. They can build up. They can tear down. They can cast spells of unconfidence, low self-worth, and depression. Or they can build up, create joy and give us wings to fly.

The Vikings were not wrong about the power of words. We can be great magicians and take these words to create spellbinding stories of entertainment. Or we can take words and use them in great battles. Words can create laws and rules that curtail bad behavior before it starts, or use them to start a war that will cost human life.

Even with so much power, words still aren’t the best or only way to communicate. Here is an odd fact. In talking with another human face to face, we only hear about 35% of the words they say. The rest of the communication is taken in through instinctual feelings of how those words are said, eye contact and physical posturing.  We all seem to know when something is said sincerely by how the other person looks at us, or the tone of their voice. So again, words only have the life we imbue them with.

Of course, the words you are now reading are inducing different feelings in you. For instance, your eyes are seeing and the brain is receiving and a whole lot of activity is going on as the brain sorts and make sense of everything.  Depending on whether you are happy or sad at this moment, it will color these words with your opinion of what I, the writer, am trying to say. Get five people in a room and have them explain this very same paragraph and every one of them will understand it differently.

With all these filters going on, emotions, spiritual, understanding, deciphering, and opinions, it is amazing we can even communicate! Let alone get an idea across to another person

But words are a mighty power.  Never forget that. Words carry a heavy responsibility. Every time you go to communicate either by the written word or the spoken word, you are carrying a huge power to do good or evil. To build up or tear down.

As I said before, Vikings treated their words with great care. The simple word “mare”, if used against another man, gave the one insulted the right to kill, on the spot, the one who had given insult. They went to great lengths to keep words from doing damage because it could be life or death for them. They understood the power of good and evil of words.

From the time I could talk I was also taught the responsibility my words carried. I find in the digital world ocean, words ebb and flow, or can crash with a tsunami’s devasting destruction. We need to heed our ancestors and recognize the power our words can wield in blogs and books. I can’t help but wonder if we used our words for the power of good all the time if this world wouldn’t be a much nicer place to live in, and the spell of peace could prevail.

Advertisements

Viking Tid Bits 2

944194_10151616379857744_1550382997_n

My mother used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” As a child, it didn’t make much sense, but now, in this upheaval of political values, it is understandable.  And you may wonder how this might then lead into thoughts about Vikings.

Well, they may have had the right answer to how to handle different political views and where my mother got that little idiotism of wisdom. They had no formal king in the beginning. In fact, when a king was finally instituted, a few of them, not wanting to give up their independence, moved to Iceland. Even to this day, the closest you will ever get to the Old Norse way of government is in Iceland where they may still have the best way of doing things.

When a few hardy souls decided to live in the fjords and treacherous mountains of Norway and Sweden, they formed independent little villages or homesteads. Often a family would just farm a little plot of land and if the children made it to adulthood, they would branch off and farm a little more of any available land next to the old homestead. As you can see this would present some problems when they ran out of land.

As little villages were loosely created, they were hemmed in by the lack of growth. The fjords are steep, the weather harsh and there was not much farmland. Their only form of easy transportation was boats so you can see where they might become expert seafarers. Then, most of their goods had to be traded for.

They lived off the sea as well as farmed. They were quite resourceful, they had to be. This, of course, fosters independence. They became traders long before a few wild individuals took to plundering. During those long dark nights of winter, they became quite the craftsmen.

So as their population grew, and it wasn’t quick with the high mortality rate they faced, eventually little towns sprung up throughout Scandinavia.  Of course, they didn’t have much communication with other little hamlets, so each village became its own unit. The strongest male there would usually hold a position of being the final say.

So let’s say one family had a grievance with another over property lines. In the fall, usually during the final harvest, the nearby villages would get together to celebrate. There were many names for this gathering, like Althing, or the Thing. Remember each village developed its own beliefs and customs, but this was a pretty common event. Several heads of families would get together and hear out individual complaints. It was a court of sorts. So the two families feuding over property would bring this before the judges and they would hear the case, then the gathered crowd would vote on whatever decision the judges came up with.

Some historians will claim this was where democracy was born. Others say it’s the purest form of democracy and still exists in Iceland today. Due to the little villages being so isolated from one another, each one developed into its own little government. Beliefs varied from village to village as well as customs. But once a year they could come together and work out their differences.

Actually, this is the way of the human race. Even now we see in each country factions of belief and values breaking off, forming groups. The Vikings were a little smarter about it though. If they really couldn’t agree on something, even with their peaceful harvest get-togethers every year, they finally resorted to the sword as the final say.  They truly were Darwin’s first real test of his theory of survival of the fittest.

Interestingly though, the Vikings also valued life above all else, especially since so few of them ever made it past 40. Children were considered precious. So again, it behooved them to settle a matter before it came to the fight.

I find the Vikings fascinating in many ways.  They were truly a unique group. But when it came to government, we could learn a few things from them. Unfortunately, it also shows that no matter the system chosen, humans will always be contentious and want it their way. History truly is the best teacher.

Viking’s and Romance

1962787_356435787828313_1101820394_n

If a Viking man spouted poetry to a love interest, he could lose his life. Why? As with everything about the Vikings, there is only tantalizing little clues. Through the Poetic Edda, an oral history that wasn’t written down until the 13th century, we see glimpses of everyday life. It has been speculated this rule was to keep men from falsely leading a maiden on. Or possibly it wasn’t considered manly for a Viking warrior to spout soft words of love.

Most Viking marriages were arranged much like a modern company merger. There were strict rules about property and how the bride’s dowry would be dispersed. Viking women had more rights and freedoms than any of their counterparts at that time in history. This would have been due to their traveling husbands. Viking men were traders, leaving in the spring and wandering all summer long while the world was ice free. The return rates weren’t all that great back then. Between the dangers of ship travel, diseases in foreign lands, and raiding, a Viking man might never return.

So the Viking woman ran things at home. She had to oversee the livestock, production of crops and profit. While she was at it, she also prepared meals and made things for around the house. There was no local Wal-Mart to help out. It was a tough life. For this reason, all land inheritance was usually passed down through the woman.

With various gods, traditions, and superstitions, a marriage ceremony usually lasted on average, nine days. The Vikings had a thing about the number nine. There was drinking and feasting of course, along with rituals to entice the gods to give fertility, wealth and health. Quite often family swords were exchanged, and proof given that the marriage was consummated.

Another interesting concept − Viking woman could divorce easily. All she had to do was stand next to the bed shared with her husband and in front of three witnesses, simply say out loud three times, “I divorce thee.” Yup, it was that easy. Maybe that is why the men treated their women so well.

While monogamy was practiced, it wasn’t set in stone. If the man was lusty and wealthy enough, and his wife agreed to it, he could take a second wife. It was nothing to own several slaves as well. In fact, he was encouraged by his loving wife, to have a slave for copulation during her later months of pregnancy.

What of possible bastard offspring? Those long summer days did get a little lonely while Olaf was gone. Unfortunately, if a woman conceived while her husband was away, he had the right to deny feeding or clothing any offspring. When a baby was born, if the head of the household did not claim it on the ninth day, the baby was ‘exposed,’ meaning it was left to die in the forest.

The Vikings liked to keep things simple.

(For More Information on the Viking Culture and Customs please check out  http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/)

A Journey Completed

35223976_1786776381436840_3312005120538968064_o

The first time I actually immersed myself in a romance novel I felt like I was eavesdropping on people who were falling in love, and it started an addiction.

I prefer a character-driven historical romance. The birds and bees operation of making babies is great, but I like to get to know the characters and what makes them tick. Learning their faults, strengths and wondering how they are ever going to get together with all the problems in the way. I love learning the history of the time and seeing it through their eyes.

For years, as I dreamed of writing my own stories. I had one story that was the most persistent of the brood of ideas. I’ve always been fascinated by the Viking people, back before it became cool. I thought a Viking historical romance would be awesome.

As with all of this writing stuff, I have found I’m quite naïve. Ever wondered how you go about writing a historical novel? They say write what you know for a reason. It is hard to describe something you have never seen or done.

I’ve studied the subject of Vikings and their history, and it seemed easy enough. Throw in a few Viking sounding names, and a few sword fights and you have it. Right?

I found it harder to do the research than the actual writing. First, you need to find a time period. Then, you have to find out what was the political climate, who was in charge. Kings? Dictators? Governments? What battles were going on?

Once you determine how that fits into your plot, then you decide on names. Of course, they need to be period correct if you want an actual historical feel to it. Then there is religion, customs, foods, and daily living. What were their tools called? What was the wildlife they would be eating? Since it is set in Norway I was surprised to find they had different flora and fauna than, of course, someplace like North America, where I’ve lived all my life.

Next, there is clothing. Did they make it? Where did they get the materials? What were their houses like? The weather? Oh, wait! Are there different time zones and climates than where I live?  What were the names of the towns of that time? Did you know that Selby, England was called Seletun in the Viking times? Or what is now York, was called Eoforwic? How do you pronounce them? How long did it take them to get across the North Sea? What were their trading routes?

My favorite was the day I had to actually Google, “How to Curse in Norse.” I found they didn’t use our short little words. Nope, they made insults an art form. Actually, entertainment called “flyting!” No joke. One of my favorite lines, “You are a drinker of sheep piss,” has entertained me for hours!

I’m deathly afraid of water. Traveling by boat is not something I ever want to do. I found it humorous I was going to have to learn about boats because that was the Vikings main mode of transportation. How fast were the ships? What were they built of? How were they designed? How many people could fit on one? How did they do long sea crossings? What did they eat? The questions are endless and so were the books and videos I perused to learn about it.

At first, when I started out, I would write one sentence and then spend the next hour looking up history or spellings. I have since gotten into the swing of things. I have built quite an organized research set-up. I learned to write out the scene and star the things I need to go back and check out. Then insert facts and figures later on. That went much smoother. I found it hard to break out of my little world of the past, to go to the local grocery store for food, after I’ve spent a half hour explaining how they cut up and cooked reindeer, or prepared lutefisk from dried fish.

Now, the journey is complete. The editing, beta reading, and formatting are done. Norse Hearts is ready to be printed and go out into the world. After all this time living with Einar, Seraphina, Dagfinn and Jarl Roald, I feel like I’m saying goodbye to a family. I am nervous about their debut and I hope they will entertain all of you as much as they entertained me.

For you, I hope when you are done reading it you will have laughed, cried, worried, fallen in love and become an expert on the Viking life of 760 AD.  And enjoyed the journey so much you can’t wait for the next Viking epic, Assassin Hearts.

One thing for certain, I feel sorry for my High School History teacher and how hard she tried to teach me history. I have far more respect for her. If she was around to read this book, I know I would have impressed her and received an A!

Look for the release of Norse Hearts at the following links:

Facebook   https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobynnGabel/

Author Website   http://www.robynngabel.com/

Amazon Author Page   http://www.amazon.com/author/robynngabel

Twitter   https://twitter.com/relpud

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/robynngabel/

Goodreads   https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/79722706-robynn-gabel

 

To Leave or Not to Leave Facebook

MP900439449
Should you leave Facebook? I would say no. The milk has already been spilled. And if you think that your personal information hasn’t gotten out before this, if not on Facebook, it has somewhere else. Especially if you have kids, you know firsthand you have no privacy!

With all the social media, apps, email, and internet churning out there, unbeknown to you and me, more information than we ever thought was possible has been gleaned from thousands of clicks and site visits.

In this wild west of exploding technology, where your smartphone is outdated the minute you buy it, how can anyone still believe in the illusion of privacy? When the first computer was created the cat was out of the box.

Think about it. We have mountains of literature and forward-thinking people who have warned us that once a system was created to accumulate data we no longer had a private identity.

We have lost individuality and have been reduced to a number. Starting at the moment of birth we are tagged with a Social Security number. Even the Greeks coined a common saying that covers this. We have opened Pandora’s Box.

No, leaving Facebook is more like closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. You must use all social media with a bit of common sense. Take precautions in what you are saying. Facebook is a good tool. But like everything else it has its good and its bad. I got started on Facebook all because they had a free game. Who can forget the addiction to Farmville? I have collected pictures, connected with old friends and made new friends. Reconnected with long lost family and also found out things I never wanted to know about people in general. Yeah, I watched all the political muck that abounds with each election. I’m amazed at the lack of self-control many exhibits publically. But I learned a long time ago not to share or discuss religion, politics and especially not to share family issues.

But this electronic meeting place is no different than what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. It’s what we used to do in small towns off of front porches or at the corner drug store. Now it’s just on a universally grander scale. Gossip, share and talk. We get to see the worst and best of humanity in electronic gluttony.

Like any superpower, you can use Facebook for the power of evil or good. I personally like the ease of being able to stay in contact with people and learn new things. And a wise man said, believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you hear.

The silly thing is, we have never had privacy. We just hid things better before Facebook came along. The only way you are going to be able to protect your privacy is to go off the grid and live like a hermit.

Beware the Writing Contest

74924_750361231657867_1980583153_n

Some might think I’m writing this because I’m an envious, disillusioned writer who has entered countless contests and never won.

Nah, though I have entered book contests, several creative writing contests, and numerous club site contests. I’m happy to say I’ve won a couple contests here or there. Sadly, it didn’t give me any more confidence as a writer.

So first warning, if you are basing the measure of your work by the contest you are entering,  it isn’t going to help, especially if you never win. If you do win, it is fleeting at best and the doubts just grow bigger. So just write because you like writing.

Second warning, if you must enter a writing contest just because you are a competitive person, I would suggest only entering contests where you don’t have to pay to enter. There seems to be just a few around these days, but they do exist.

“Why?” you might ask.  Well, let me share something I discovered. I was doing my taxes and as a writer, I was told I could add in my expenses for the money I paid into contests. You know, the ones where they say “send us your book – you must pay the postage – we won’t be returning it unless you pay for return postage – we won’t tell you anything about what the judges think about your book – and we want you to pay us to enter.” Yeah, those contests.

In one year I had spent five hundred on this venture, with no return. No wonder the government wanted to give me a break on taxes, they felt sorry for me. Either way, I started doing a little math. Yeah, this is going to be a word problem in math and I know these confuse you, but hang in there with me, okay?

Let’s say the contest is asking for a book. You discover you meet all the criteria. You have written a massive novel well over 80,000 words. You have paid a fortune for “kick-rear-end” cover art.  You even did your due diligence and got not only a copy editor but a proofreader.  You paid a few beta readers and paid to print or get ARC copies.  You have rave reviews. And lo and behold, you are a first-time author with no large group of dedicated readers clamoring for your new book.

Of course, you may have thrown all you have into social media, launch parties, cover reveal and still your book seems to languish. It is only logical that maybe a little bragging right on the contests you win might make it more appealing to the reader. Maybe you feel it gives you a little more notoriety in the world of books.

Whatever your drive, you have to also spend the entry fee. You and about five hundred other hungry piranha’s.

I don’t know, it’s just my opinion here, but I can’t figure it into my budget.  I can see it in the advertising book contest’s budget though.  They do none of the work.  They don’t pay postage return, no critique, or any solid feedback for your hundred bucks. You get nothing in return except a slim hope. And if you don’t win, you don’t even get that. In fact, (I hope I’m way off base here) I worry about exactly who gets to have all those cast -off copies of those books. So if there are 500 entries at hundred bucks a pop, well do the math. Who is getting what?

So, what is an aspiring writer to do?

I would recommend a blog. One I have mined gazillions of free advice from and that is:  https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com

This blog is always sharing the latest news in the publishing world.  I love the input from so many willing to share their success/failure stories. Take for instance the solid advice on how blogging helps build your skill as a writer and helps build a reader base for any books you put out. Or how Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Smashwords, Amazon, etc., help build your social platform. There are articles about Kindle stats, programming and changes. Or editing advice, writing advice, and story development. You name it; it’s all there for absorption on how to become a better writer.

As an author who dabbles in writing books, I have gained from doing all of the above. Still not selling a ton of books, but I’m happy with my progress and I see a growing readership.  I feel like I have succeeded in doing what I wanted and had fun doing it. I have gained confidence in the writing groups I have joined who have given me consistent feedback that has helped me grow as a writer. It has been finding the best editor in the world who doesn’t hesitate to be dirt honest with me and work with me.

So in short, the moral of this blog is, winning contests mean nothing. Hard work, persistence, a good support system and an exciting new story are the only way you are going to feel confident and sell books.