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/)
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:
Author Website http://www.robynngabel.com/
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/author/robynngabel
A month had passed since the funeral. I had stayed strong on the outside for all to see and succeeded in getting through it. Now, each morning when I arose, the reality seeped in a little more each day and the shock receded, leaving me raw and vulnerable.
I went from wanting someone to mention him or console me, to wanting to hurt in silence and avoid everyone. In this stormy sea, the squalls frequently came with drenching tears or became the doldrums of not feeling anything.
There was no direction. No goals. No plans for the future. I was adrift with no forward movement. The only constant was the ache and the knowledge it would never be the same. I was bitter that life marched on, dragging me with it.
This stage, or whatever you want to call it, differs for everyone. I know this after spending hours talking with others who, like me, have gone through it. I wanted to hurry up this stage, get it over quickly, thinking the sooner I did; I could capture some normalcy again. Now all I can do is record my journey and know that no two are alike.
Before Darrell passed, I had ample warning he would go before I would. We talked. I thought we covered it all. Finances, kids, what I would do after he passed. But no amount of planning or talking helps you prepare for the actual journey and the tidal wave of confusing emotions.
I thought it would go this way. I would grieve, hurt and then rebound. I would become a missionary in Africa or serve the homeless at a local soup kitchen. I would devote my life to my Lord. I would be a pillar of strength and guidance to my family. I would go on living because I thought I could handle being alone. I would be a good widow in everyone’s eyes, holding my love for him like a beacon. I would be the example of true love that never dies.
Then one night in the ER when I was deathly ill, it all came crashing down around me. I finally admitted to myself there is a difference between alone and being lonely.
I was depressed. I had isolated myself in our winter home in Yuma. I had lost weight due to not eating and sleeping. I couldn’t see a way forward because I was so wrapped up in my grief. Ending up in the same emergency room Darrell had on the same day a year later was a wake-up call. A stern ER doctor lectured me on what I needed to do to get myself healthy. I listened.
I reconnected with friends. Joined chat sites. Came home to the kids and started working on the house. I picked up writing again. Went out into the community and found volunteer work at the local cancer clinic. And ran into someone I wasn’t looking for.
At first, we just chatted. Then I tried to pushing him away in a panic because I didn’t want anything more than a friend. He firmly explained it was just an offer of friendship. Since he was four years out from his loss, I wanted to know about his journey in hopes I could glean from it some kernel of wisdom, a vision of hope.
So began a wonderful friendship and the year passed. On the anniversary of my husband’s death, family and friends helped light Chinese lanterns to remember the man who loved us all. The one I released hovered over the house as if he was saying he missed me. I was gaining more peace every day, moving forward sluggishly, but still not wanting to release the life I had shared with him entirely.
His clothes still hung in the closet. I felt I lost more of him with each change, with each item of his that slipped away. But I also knew it was healthy and to heal I needed to move on with life.
My husband and I had blended a family. Three of his kids and two of mine from previous marriages had bonded well. In fact, the kids had done far better than I had. Still, I worried about them going forward. So I tried to be a good example.
Except then, my new friend proposed. We had slowly begun to date, even though we didn’t think of it that way. We met for coffee, had lunch, even a few dinners. All the while talking about our former spouses and growing closer.
What should I do? Darrell and I had never talked about having someone else in our lives if one of us passed on. I loved him so much I never entertained the idea there would be anyone else. What would happen now? How could I replace the love I felt for one man with another? Where was my narrative of carrying my love for my husband until the day I died? What would the kids think? What would my friends think? What did I think?
It seemed a widow’s conundrum. It is not that I will ever love Darrell less, nor can I. And I could never, ever replace him. In fact, I struggled with the idea I could even love another man. But I had this same panic before my second child was born. I remember watching my daughter sleep one night while her sister stirred in my belly. I was worried. How could I ever love another baby as much as I had loved my first? Yet, when the second daughter was born, I fell in love immediately. Not with the same love, but a love that was hers and hers alone.
I had forgotten the heart is inflatable. It can stretch to love many. The thing is – each love is different – because each person is different.
How could I explain to those who were still grieving the loss of their father or friend, that I could still love Darrell? That the love I felt for him was there and it would never go away. It left a permanent scar that would ache every time there was a family gathering, and he wasn’t there. Or I visited a place that we had shared, and I remembered our past life together. Every holiday, every memory that crossed my mind would have a bittersweet twinge of melancholy.
Yet, I needed to move on. Continue to experience life. New loves would come in. Not to replace, but to reside alongside all the other loves that were already there.
It is lonely to live without your soul mate, the love of your life. But there are still people I love left in my life. The love that grew and was shared by two souls, who became one, now overflows, fills and touches all who are still in it. I realize I can choose to honor that love until we meet again, by living alone and always in its shadow. Or I can go out and experience continued growth to my heart and spread the love I have received.
I decided to honor my love for my husband by giving more love to another lonely heart. There are those who may think less of me or feel I didn’t love my husband enough to stay a grieving widow. I can say I totally understand.
I understand because I once thought that way. I have learned that until you travel the road, you don’t know how the trip is going play out. I remember what I thought it would be like to go to Africa and when I did, it was nothing like the journey itself.
So it is with grief. It is the most singularly, loneliest path we will travel in life. No one can walk it with us, and you never know where the path might lead, or what emotions you will experience.
Love those in your life who are grieving. Understand their choices may not always make sense to you. And remember one day you too will experience this path. There is no way to prepare for it except watching how others travel it.
Know that love continues to expand. It grows and flourishes when it is fed and understood. It is not meant to be locked away to die, never to be gifted again.
August 4th, 2016
Last night, my friend stopped over and asked me to look something up for her on my computer. As my screen saver popped up, one of my favorite pictures of Darrell appeared. His eyes were crinkled in one of my favorite grins.
She looked sadly at me and asked, “Do you really think that helps?”
I didn’t have to ask what she was referring to; I knew it was about my grief over his passing. They say anger is part of the process of grieving. I had been fortunate that there hasn’t been really anything to be angry about. Yes, I missed him, yes, it had been hard to lose him, but really his final days had been peaceful and our relationship up to the last minute, had been so good.
Yet, a comment like this, even eleven months out, had a way of worming under my skin and setting off a bigger spark of anger each time I was questioned on how I was handling my grief.
Aren’t we all different? Isn’t it refreshing we aren’t all the same? Each of us sees through different eyes and perceives the world in so many wonderful ways around us. This is why I have always respected how differently each person handles things in their lives. Sometimes I worry their coping methods are destructive to their health or way of life, but still they have the freedom of choice to do this.
I had so many people who were wonderfully supportive. My favorites were the ones who just listen. Or ask me how I’m coping and really wanted to hear how I was doing it. My least favorites were those who had a preconceived idea of how I should be doing it.
I’ve been questioned about such silly things. Why are his clothes still in our closet? Why haven’t I spread his ashes and why do I wear my wedding ring? To them, there is a rule somewhere about this. I respect that through the years there have been some common customs developed to help people move on, but they aren’t set in stone.
I still have need of feeling some normalcy in my life, so the clothes remain until that need passes. We had wanted our ashes spread together, so I must wait to add mine to his. The wedding ring was my version of wearing black. I needed that support, that closeness to my husband, to the way of life I had. It also helped keep away others and not have the dreaded question asked, “So are you married?”
Whatever my reasons, they should be respected. Pictures of my loved one should be a normal thing. As my granddaughter pointed out, I could have asked if she had pictures of her grandchildren on her phone. They live in another state, so why wouldn’t she want to have pictures of them when she couldn’t be with them. She still loves them even though she doesn’t see them every day and wants a reminder of them. Why wouldn’t I continue to have pictures of Darrell decorate my living space? Just because he has passed, doesn’t mean he never existed. I can’t wipe my memory clean. Starting over is hard enough, but I need the foundation my married relationship created for me to continue on.
Grieving people are just touchy, each in a different way. No wonder people avoid friends who have lost loved ones. It is hard to determine what will and won’t offend or hurt them. I was on that side once. I had never lost a loved one and felt a deep agony over what to say to someone who had.
But don’t worry, no matter what you say or do, we understand you are trying to help and just overlook the unintentional mistakes. Just don’t be surprised at tears, a growl or a blank look. Just keep being there for us. We will heal; it is just going to take a little time.
The hardest thing about writing a book isn’t writing it. Some would say it’s just trying to actually sit down and write it. Some would say it’s the organization, or having the perfect plot, or of showing not telling, or even the construction of the grammar-perfect sentences. I would disagree. It is the editing process. In fact, it is so hard, that many are tempted to skip it or give up on it all together.
I would have to admit, first and foremost, I’m a reader. All my life, reading has been my entertainment, crutch, mentor, and escape. With the event of Amazon I discovered I could comment on books that I bought, so I became a reviewer. Eventually, for some strange reason I still do not comprehend, I felt the desire to even write a book and try my hand at self-publishing. So, as you can see, I’ve experienced all sides of how a book is created.
But I want to thank all those authors who go through the editing process and don’t give up. It is, of all the aspects of the book business, the process I hate the most. I know that I must go through an edit. My editor can verify this and has earned her halo going through it with me.
This doesn’t give me the right to sit in judgment of anyone’s book creating process, but it definitely gives me an understanding of the reasons why it could be easy for someone to not want to do it.
I do admire those writers who persevere. How they give of their time, trudge onward into the wee hours of the night, cussing and cursing, pounding their heads against walls and still come through the other side with a full head of hair.
I grow weary of those who evade the process or think it’s not necessary. I see it in books that have glaring grammar issues, poor formatting, poor plot structure or no plot at all. Something an editor worth their salt would help a struggling author to correct. I tire of those books I review that could be so good and yet when I contact the author to gently suggest an edit, am told that it is great just the way it is.
Or those who profusely produce and could be great, yet can’t see that we all have to go through an edit. I’ve heard many an excuse, but in my opinion, it boils down to one thing, an edit hurts, it is hard work and it takes dedication.
I remember one morning waking up after a long night editing, complaining to my husband, “Why the heck am I arguing with my editor over imaginary people and imaginary plot scenes? It is all just make believe!”
My pride has been stung again and again when I think I’ve written that perfect scene. When I’m sure the sentence is perfect in grammar. When I add so many neat things in a story, only to be told it has nothing to do with the plot, get rid of it. And it goes on and on. I want to believe in the dream of being such a great author that I write it perfectly the first time.
But Reality is, writing a book is not about writing it right the first time. It is about writing and writing and writing until you get it right.
After losing the love of my life in September, I have floated aimlessly on the waves of change, until the last few weeks. Then I decided to get back into my second passion in life.
I’ve taken control of the helm once again through the re-organization of my writing world. First was to hire someone that had knowledge of the vast digital world I am helpless in. Starting with my blog, you will notice new banners, social links and a page advertising the upcoming new book due to Mr. Richter’s skills, firstname.lastname@example.org. I have revised the first two books and added two children’s books as well.
For those of you who have been following my journaling on the 33 years of travel through cancer with my husband, (Living in the Shadow of Death) do not fear, I am still working on it. It will now be available on my Author website. It will be linked here and notification served through Facebook.
I needed the freedom to post again about my writing journey and to re-blog some of the awesome blogs I run across in my travel through cyber-space.
I must sadly report that I’m still editing Norse Hearts. This is a 100,000 worded romance, and trust me, grammar is not a talent of mine, just ask Chryse Wymer, http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/, my ever long-suffering editor. But when it is finished you will be inundated with advertising joy.
Meanwhile, thank you for following my little corner of insanity.