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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Book That Made Me Bleed

So I don't know if you heard but Amazon Publishing is giving away 100 Kindle Editions of Daughter of a Thousand Years over on Goodreads -- 100 copies!!! So I hope you'll all head on over and enter to win, because that feels like pretty good odds to me.

pre-order on Amazon
Daughter is a book very close to my heart. I've talked about this elsewhere, under my other author name and in my more personal interactions with people and fans, but I've been kind of a coward about it as Amalia Carosella. I've been afraid to be honest with you all about WHY it is such an important book for me. Which is kind of silly of me, and not only because I'm very forthright about it in my author's note at the end of the book. But you see, it's in part my own fear that makes it so important to me.

As authors, we're kind of expected to simultaneously pour our lifeblood onto the pages of our books, and at the same time, remain apart from them, to cleanse and cut any obvious ties between ourselves and the story we're telling. Our books are both about ourselves, our issues, our struggles, our moral and ethical dilemmas and... Not. Most of the time, it isn't until I've finished writing a book that I look back at it and go "oh. I guess I was trying to figure x out still." Daughter was different, though. Daughter was the book that I knew was going to make me bleed from the start. The book I wasn't ready to write. The book I knew was going to make me deal with all my fears regarding my own faith, my own failings, my own existence in this crazy world we live in.

I am not Emma. Let me put that out there first and foremost before I go any further. I am not Emma, but I have felt the things Emma has felt. Emma's fears have, to a vastly different extent in some ways and to a similar degree in others, been my fears -- and this blogpost is proof that I haven't conquered all those fears yet. That I am still struggling with some of the things that Emma struggles with. Because although I am not Emma, I am, like Emma's character, a pagan polytheist. A Heathen, specifically. My spiritual experiences have been prevailingly Germanic-Norse, not Abrahamic. And let me tell you, squaring all that up with a Catholic upbringing was... pretty terrifying for me. Even more so when I realized I was suddenly on my own, alone, without the comfort and support of the Church to provide a community for me anywhere I went in the (Western) world, without the reassurance that there were literally millions of other people out there who shared in what I believed.

There is so much strength in numbers. In community. There is so much power there to lift us up, or strike us down. And when we can't see ourselves in the community we've been immersed in, when it feels like we don't belong there anymore -- it is so, so hard. But that's what makes this book matter -- to me, maybe to someone you know, but didn't realize needed it, or maybe to you -- because I don't want it to be as hard for someone else. I want them to see themselves inside the community, somewhere, somehow -- even if it's just the community of people who love books.

It's as good a place to start as any.

Tamer of Horses Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Freydis Eriksdaughter

The Draken at Mystic Seaport
(Or if you prefer: Freydís Eiríksdóttir)

DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS is in large part (half) a book about Erik the Red's daughter, Freydis. She also happens to be the (half) sister of Leif Eriksson aka Leif the Lucky -- who you probably are familiar with via Leif Eriksson's Day, that holiday around Columbus Day that celebrates Leif as the actual first European to stumble across America. (Which is maybe not even true either but for the moment, we'll let that lie.) So why write about Freydis when I could write a book about Leif or Erik?

There are a couple of reasons. A multitude, even, but the first and foremost is that Freydis Fights. She is such a rich and defiant character, even in the sagas, where most characters are not really painted beyond their broadest strokes. But Freydis had personality. She went against the grain, did things that seemed ridiculous and mind-boggling and even awful. And I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what provoked her, what compelled her to act in the ways that she acted, contrary to the ways in which she was expected to act or behave.

You see, in the Vinland Sagas, there are plenty of clearly pious characters -- good people who are wise and act appropriately. Leif is one of them. Not exactly a hero, because he's not really the focus of the story, but certainly a Good Man (tm). Gudrid and Karlsefni, too, are very pious, very Good People (tm). And Freydis -- well, there's some debate as to whether Freydis even lived, or whether she was wholly invented to act as a foil to Gudrid and the other Good People, the pious, Godly people. Which made her that much more perfect for fiction, naturally! Built in conflict and turmoil, and a chance to understand what might have made her UNgodly and UNpious. What made her trouble, when everyone around her was trying to become Great and doing work in God's name?

I had a theory.

You'll have to read DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS to decide for yourself whether you agree.

Don't forget you can request a review copy still, via Netgalley, and we'll be blogtouring beginning February 16th! In the meantime, maybe you want to mark DAUGHTER to-read on Goodreads? Or dare I dream that you'd even go so far as to pre-order?

Tamer of Horses Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Top 5 Historical Fiction Reads of 2016

I read 99 books during 2016, and of those, 21 were historical fiction -- though, full disclosure, two of those 21 were mine (proof reads!), so really, we're talking about 19. I'm a little bit later to this party than I meant to be but -- my top five NEW* historical fiction reads in 2016 are below! Please note that really the top three are all equally great, so it's like three #1's and then #2 and #3. Or um. Maybe it's four #1's and a #2. You follow me.

*I'm preemptively cutting rereads from consideration because obviously I loved them or I wouldn't have read them again.

The Rebel Pirate (Renegades of the Revolution)1) The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland

Friends. I don't even LIKE American History. I could care less about the Revolutionary War, to be perfectly honest. It's not even remotely my period in any way, shape, or form. But Thorland sucks me in like none other, and The Rebel Pirate was a phenomenal follow-up to The Turncoat, which might have been my number one book if I hadn't discounted rereads. Honestly, even just thinking about this book, now I kind of want to reread The Rebel Pirate AND The Turncoat... So. I guess what I'm really saying is -- buy them both immediately if you haven't.

The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great 2) The Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton

If you haven't read any of Stephanie Thornton's book yet, I don't know where you've been or what you've been doing with your life, but you need to get on it. I've read three books that tackle Alexander the Great so far in my life, and The Conqueror's Wife is by far and away the most engaging to date. I defy you NOT to love Hephaestion and Drypetis, and as always, Thornton proves herself an absolute master when it comes to weaving the Ancient World.

Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories, #3) 3) Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell

Ragnar and Uhtred are reunited in this book and their chemistry is fantastic. I'd been a little luke-warm on the preceding volumes, feeling like there was something missing for me, personally, to enjoy them as much as I'd like, but this one knocked it out of the park so hard I immediately ordered the next in the series. So for those of you who may have stopped reading the Saxon stories after book one or book two, man, book three made it all so worth it. Definitely give it another go if you were on the fence! (Also that cover is gorgeous.)

The Ghost Bride4) The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

This book was a perfect blend of mystical/spiritual and historical. It's definitely an example of what I'd love to see more of in the historical fiction genre, as far as the blending of those two elements goes. We need books like these, because without the spiritual to give us context for the cultural, we lose an important piece of the puzzle in helping us to understand one another. And while there were moments that didn't surprise me, perhaps, as much as I might have liked, it didn't prevent me from hugely enjoying this read.

Age of Bronze Volume 1: A Thousand Ships5) Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower

Okay, this is maybe cheating a little because I only read the most recent two graphic novels in 2016 -- the first two I read in 2015. BUT. I really want to recommend this as a whole thing, not just one volume, because it is one of the most meticulous and absolutely thorough retellings of the Trojan War mythology I've ever come across. Every side story, every footnote, every hero is represented right down to Theseus's sons, and the art is phenomenally researched too. There's no Hollywood Roman nonsense happening in these panels. It's the real deal, and I'm personally super eager to read more!

 If you want to know what my Top 5 Non-Hist Fic Reads were in 2016, Klikk Klikk!

And if you missed it, last week you got a very special teaser for DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS, my next release, coming your way February 21! So check it out -- and if you enjoy it, don't forget to pre-order and mark it to-read on Goodreads!


Tamer of Horses Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Daughter of a Thousand Years No-Kiss Teaser

So for many years, thanks to the genius of Frankie Diane Mallis, there was this post-New Year's Day tradition of a No-Kiss blogfest (That other me even hosted it once). The idea was that writers across the blogosphere would post an excerpt from their work in progress of one of those key moments of unresolved sexual tension. Where a kiss might have happened, but didn't. Or just leading UP to a kiss, but without the kiss itself. It was a lot of fun, but as with many things, fell by the wayside as people moved away from blogging as their primary networking push.

But I'm feeling nostalgic today, and since we're just a little short of two months away from the release of DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS, I thought you might appreciate a little teaser action. So to speak.

For context: This scene takes place in Viking Age Greenland, around the year 1000 -- give or take. Freydis is the daughter of Erik the Red, and like her father, she is a defiant pagan in a world that is quickly becoming more Christian than anything else. Enter a very bold man named Sonnung.

I sank up to my neck in the steaming water of the spring, sighing with pleasure at the warmth before pinching my nose and submerging completely. The water was almost too warm, the heat burning against my eyelids, and I did not like to think of the mess I was making of my hair, dousing it this way, but I used my free hand to loosen it from the thick braid I’d worn to keep it from tangling during the long weeks I had spent in my bed. The cleanliness of my body would be worth little if my hair and scalp still stunk.

My lungs ached, wanting to breathe, but I waited until I was truly desperate before I broke the surface again for air, gasping, then coughing from the sudden cold.

“A daughter of Njǫrd, now, are you?” a man asked, familiar amusement coloring his words. The next moment, he’d slipped into the water with me, all muscle and grace. “I was just beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t pull you back out.”

I forced myself to meet his gaze, keeping my eyes from his broad chest, scarred and pockmarked from what seemed to me a hundred battles. It was remarkable that he had survived so many wounds at all, never mind with such strength still. “I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that you were watching, eager as you seem to be to spear me through.”

He laughed, tipping his copper head back and spreading his arms along the green turf that lined the bank. “You’ll find nothing quite so sharp as a spear about my weapon, I promise you that.”

“You make far too many promises, Sonnung,” I said, looking away. He was every bit as attractive in sunlight as he had been in the dim farmhouse, but I had no interest in giving him the satisfaction of knowing I thought so. “I can’t imagine any man capable of keeping them all.”

“There are no men like me, Freydís,” he said. “You’ll see that soon enough.”

I sniffed, crossing my arms over my chest beneath the water. “That’s what they all say, but once you have your sword sheathed, you’ll be just like the others. Panting and heaving above me, dousing me in stink and sweat without a care for my comfort or pleasure.”

“Only a fool would crush you beneath him,” he said. “And I am no fool. But I won’t pretend you’ll find anything gentle in my arms. Not if you continue to tease me this way.”

“I’m not certain it would matter whether I teased you or not, in that regard,” I said, letting my gaze linger briefly on his scarred chest. “What’s a fighting man doing among a ship full of traders?”

“Perhaps he’s looking for a woman to cool the fire in his blood.”

“Then it’s Gudrid you want, not me.” I rose, not caring what he saw, meaning to haul myself back out of the water. My arms were weak, trembling, and I fell back with a splash, which only made me all the redder, shame flushing my cheeks. I grasped the turf and tried again.

“Freydís.” My name on his lips was a prayer. Admiration and desire, awe and naked need.

He was behind me in the water when my arms gave out a second time, but I wasn’t so sure it was my strength that had failed me. It was the wash of warmth from my core to my limbs, the quiver in my belly. He had one arm around my waist, his nose behind my ear, and the tickle of his beard, the caress of his very breath upon my neck. I shivered, and he drew me tight against his body, until I felt every inch of his skin against my back. He was so immense, so powerful. Not
three-legged, as Thorvard was, but large enough all the same. And hard.

The steaming water was cool against the heat of my skin, of his.

“I don’t want Gudrid,” he said against my ear. “I want the woman who stands against her. Who fights for the gods she was named for.”

“And if I refuse?” I asked, my voice far steadier than I felt.

“I’m not used to being refused,” he said, but there was humor there again, lurking beneath his words. Amusement at the game I played, even at his own expense.

“And yet.”

He growled, but a moment later, I was standing upon the turf, shivering in the cold. He followed easily, vaulting from the water, and tossed me my cloak before I’d even had time to think of reaching for it.

“Dress before I change my mind,” he said.

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt! DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS will be blogtouring beginning February 16th with HFVBT, and releases on February 21st! So don't forget to mark it to-read on Goodreads and if you liked the above, maybe even give it a pre-order!

Tamer of Horses Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | IndieBound