New Book Contract!

The map for my new fantasy novel “Dreams of Fire and Gods: Awakening.”

I’ve just signed a contract with Harmony Ink Press for my YA fantasy novel Dreams of Fire and Gods: Awakening!

I’ve been working on creating this fantasy world for about a year and a half now.  The map on the left is unfinished and still pretty crude — for one thing, there are no towns or locations marked — but it’s the general layout of the kingdom.  In the first novel, my heroes, Sael and Koreh, travel from southwest to northeast across a good part of it.

Here’s the description of the novel I put in my cover letter:

A thousand years ago, the kingdom was nearly destroyed, as two factions of gods — the Stronni and the Taaweh — warred for the land and the frightened humans who lived there.  Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

Now, as the likelihood of a war between the Emperor and his regent, Vek Worlen, approaches, the Vek’s son, Sael, finds himself allied with Koreh, a homeless vagabond, as he flees the capital city and makes his way across a hostile wilderness to his father’s keep. 

But Koreh has dreams — dreams of the ancient Taaweh — and he knows that the looming war between the Emperor and the Vek will be nothing, compared to the war that is about to begin.  Because the Taaweh are returning and the war between the gods may destroy the kingdom and all who dwell there.

I’ve been working on part two, but it hasn’t been going very fast, because so many other things have been distracting me lately.  But I’ve just promised I’ll have a final draft in two months, so now I have to buckle down and get it done.  Failing to meet my editor’s deadline would be a very bad thing.

I’m told we have a tentative date for the release of part one by the end of this year!

The Cover Art For Seidman!

The cover art for Seidman has just been released and it’s beautiful! The artist is Anne Cain and she’s managed to create a striking image that’s simple, memorable, and intense.  There have, of course, been other books about Vikings with Thor’s hammers on the cover, but Anne created a richly layered image with runes fading in and out and a beautiful use of light and shadow.  It really blows me away.

This weekend marks the end of editing.  I’ve received the galley proof, which is a PDF copy of the entire novel, including all of the forewords and afterwards and dedications, and even some ads for other Harmony Ink releases at the end.  The only thing that isn’t in final format is this cover, which didn’t arrive in my inbox until a couple hours ago, and a map I created of Viking Age Scandinavia.

The map was something I’d been working on for a while, but since it wasn’t done when the editors wanted it, I gave up and figured I’d just have to settle for putting it up on my blog.  Fortunately, the editors contacted me and asked me if I still planned on having a map, so I was able to polish it up and send it to them this weekend.  They say it looks all right, so it will be included!

NOTE:  You may have noticed that I’m now calling it Seidman, instead of Seiðman.  This was a decision my publisher and I came to recently (I was actually the one who suggested it), because it just didn’t make sense to call the novel something people couldn’t type without having to look up an extended ASCII code.  How would anybody know what to search for on Amazon?  Inside the novel, we’ve kept the Old Icelandic words as they were, but the title is now easier to remember and spell.

As far as I know, Seidman is on track to be released in mid-June!  This is going to be great!


Vanilla Skyr

Skyr is a popular yogurt-like substance made in Iceland that has been part of the Icelandic diet since it was settled around 870 C.E.  I’ve written about it in several stories, including Seiðman, but until this week I’d never actually tasted it.

I tried and failed to acquire some from a local market, which claimed to carry it (but lied), but finally my friend Claire picked some up in Maine and brought it over for me.  Now at last, I know what it actually tastes like!

I have to say, I was a little disappointed.  Not because it tasted bad.  It tasted fine.  But I was hoping for something unusual and what I got was something that tastes exactly like Greek yogurt to me.  If you can’t find skyr locally, go to the supermarket and pick up some plain Greek yogurt (which is easy to find, these days) and you’ll pretty much know what skyr tastes like.  It’s thicker and creamier than American yogurt.

On the plus side, my descriptions of it weren’t wrong.  We don’t know for certain whether it was exactly the same in the Viking Age as it is in Iceland today, but it probably wasn’t radically different.  They make it with skim milk today, and it would have been made with whole milk in the past, of course.  Icelanders often mixed it with porridge to make something called hræringur (“stirred”) or ate it with cream and sugar on it.  I gather that they still do, but now they add fruit to it, just like we do with our yogurt.

Also, it’s good to know that there is something in the Viking Age I would have been able to eat without wanting to hurl.  The Viking Age Icelandic diet consisted of delicious items such as whale meat fermented in whale urine, beef fermented in whey until it practically disintegrated, and lichen.  Mmm….

My first YA novel will be published soon!

I’ve just received a contract for my first YA novel!

Seiðman is the story of a boy in Viking Age Iceland who studies an ancient form of magic called seiðr, while struggling with his love for another young man with a very different destiny.  Here is the unofficial blurb I put in the cover letter, when I submitted it:

In Viking Age Iceland, where boys are expected to grow into strong farmers and skilled fighters, there is little place for a sickly 12-year-old boy like Kol.  That is, until he catches the eye of a seið-woman — a sorceress — and the old woman takes him on as an apprentice.  Kol’s journey to become a sorceror takes him from Iceland to Norway and eventually to Sweden, and along the way he discovers something else about himself that is different:  he has fallen in love with another boy, Thorbrand, the grandson of his mentor.

But the world is changing in ways that threaten those who practice the ancient arts.  A new religion is sweeping through the Norse lands and King Olaf Tryggvason is hunting down and executing sorcerors.  A decades-old feud forces Thorbrand to choose between Kol and his duty to his kinsman, and Kol finds himself cast adrift with only the cryptic messages of an ancient goddess to guide him to his destiny — and possibly to his death.

Seiðman depicts the vast upheaval in the northern lands at the end of the Viking era, as seen through the eyes of a boy who is not only struggling with homosexuality in a culture which places an extremely high value on manliness, but whose chosen trade throws him directly into the path of a king who will stop at nothing in his quest for power.

I spent three years writing Seiðman and researching the time period and culture.  I was also lucky enough to have people who lived in Iceland and Norway critique it for me, as well as a friend who is a medieval scholar and several others.  I won’t claim the historical information is perfect, but it’s as close to perfect as I could get, and it explores aspects of Viking Age culture that I’ve never seen covered in much detail in fiction.

The story itself intersects with events in Icelandic sagas, focusing on Olaf Tryggvason conquering Norway, and follows Kol’s adventures for five years, ending with him as a 17-year-old.

Seiðman will be released under the YA imprint, Harmony Ink, and although I haven’t yet been informed of a release date, I think it will be late this year, or at most early in 2013.  I’ll keep everyone updated on its progress.

But today I received the paperwork to fill out for the cover blurb!