Tag Archives: Vikings

The Jomsvikings

jomsvikingsI’ve been working on a novel for a while now—an adaptation of The Saga of the Jomsvikings, which was written in Old Icelandic in the 13th century. It tells of an elite band of viking warriors residing in the fortress of Jomsborg on the island of Jom. They were theoretically real, though it’s hard to say how much truth there is to the story. They appear in other sagas, including the ones I based my first YA novel Seidman on. But by then, they were in decline. They appear briefly at the battle of Svoldr, when King Olaf Tryggvason was defeated, but they quickly decided to sit the battle out.

This novel will be an adult MM romance, because, frankly, the story begs to be a MM romance. It’s a fortress full of young men, and no women are allowed. The Norse were a very homophobic society, but I can’t imagine a context like this in which absolutely no sexual activity occurred. Conveniently, the saga has a gap of three years between the initial founding and selection of warriors and the death of their leader, which led to their decline. I’ve written up to that point, and now I’ve begun to fill in those three years. That’s where the romance will really take place.

I decided to tell the story from the POV of two characters not actually in the saga: Bragi and Asleif.

ragnarBragi is older than most of the men in the fortress, and he’s seen a lot of combat. He’s weary of the death he sees on the battlefield, but he’s a survivor and he takes pride in his skill with a blade. At Jomsborg, he’s given the opportunity to pass some of his knowledge of fighting techniques along to others and help keep them alive. The actor who most closely resembles him is Travis Fimmel from Vikings.

tumblr_mub3o5naae1qa2ovmo1_500Asleif is young, and he has endured a lot of teasing over the years because of his feminine features, even after he grew to stand over his comrades. He’s skilled and cocky, and sees Bragi as a challenge. But he also senses a strong sexual undercurrent between them. Bragi is hesitant to pursue it, but Asleif gleefully chases after him, despite the danger of discovery. I found this picture online, which I believe is of Alexander Skarsgard, and despite the modern clothes and background, it perfectly represents the image I have of Asleif in my head.

The novel has been coming along slowly, in part because the saga is very short and sparse. I’m having to flesh out a lot of scenes. It also requires a lot of research into Viking fighting styles, locations (Jomsborg was most likely on the island of Wolin in modern-day Poland), and what life would be like in that environment. But it’s coming along.

Here’s an excerpt from when Asleif is being tested in mock combat to see if he can be accepted into Jomsborg. He’s part of Vagn’s crew — Vagn being a 12-year-old boy with his own raiding fleet, and no I didn’t make that up — and the entire crew is fighting against the men already residing in Jomsborg.

Excerpt:

Asleif parried a thrust to his midsection, and then bashed his attacker in the face with his shield. The Jomsviking staggered back. He seemed to be readying himself for another charge, but Bragi came up behind him and forcefully shoved him aside. “Leave him! He’s mine!”

The warriors swarming Asleif suddenly drew back, forming a circle around him and Bragi. Asleif was so startled, he almost failed to parry Bragi’s attack—almost. He deflected Bragi’s sword with the head of his axe in a quick upward and outward motion.

“Good!” Bragi shouted delightedly.

Asleif knew then that Bragi wanted him to test him, rather than kill him. Not that it was going to be easy. Bragi’s next cut was swift and powerful, looping around Asleif’s arm and coming up inside. Asleif barely managed to jump back in time to prevent a nasty cut to his abdomen. As it was, the tip of Bragi’s sword cut through his tunic, before he slammed down upon it with the edge of his shield.

It was a hasty move, and it opened his upper body up for an attack. Bragi lost no time in crashing down upon Asleif’s head with his own shield. Asleif had a thick head—he’d be the first to admit it. And he was wearing a helmet. So the blow didn’t knock him unconscious, but it rattled him. He staggered back.

“You went easy on me,” he grumbled. “You could have easily hit my eyes or my throat.”

Bragi grinned. “Now, what would be the fun in that?”

It pissed Asleif off to be treated like a child. But he’d also seen in just the few blows they’d exchanged that Bragi’s skill was equal to his own. Possibly—though he was loathe to admit it—greater. He’d never defeat the man, as long as he stayed on the defensive. Bragi could keep coming at him until he collapsed or opened himself up again. Asleif would have to go on the attack. But a charge could prove foolhardy. If Bragi managed to sidestep, Asleif’s momentum might carry him past and open him up to an attack from the rear.

Instead, he began walking slowly forward, whipping his axe around in a swirling motion and striking against Bragi’s shield so fast it was impossible to count the blows. Bragi was forced to duck behind the shield and edge backward. Any attempt to thrust his sword at Asleif would merely damage the blade against the axe.

At last, the shield cracked loudly and split in two. Asleif immediately drew back, surrendering his advantage, rather than bringing his axe down upon Bragi’s arms or head.

Bragi tossed his broken shield aside, but he was laughing. “Excellent!”

In the distance, someone blew a horn.

“Give him a shield!” Asleif shouted, panting.

A man tossed one into the air, and Bragi caught it. But then he stepped forward with the pommel of his sword held outward. “Let’s see how you do with a sword.”

The men around them laughed, and someone shouted, “This isn’t a fight! It’s a lesson!”

That evoked more laughter. But Asleif was up to the challenge, so he reached for Bragi’s weapon. But as he clasped it, a second horn called out over the strand.

Bragi glanced up. “It seems the fight is over.”

It was true. Straightening, Asleif looked over the heads of those nearby and saw that everywhere men were sheathing swords and catching their breath. Some had cuts on their bodies and their clothes were blood-spattered, but if anyone was severely injured, Asleif saw no sign of it. All appeared to be standing.

“Get out of my way!”

The men near him parted to let Vagn through. The boy looked healthy enough, despite a bloody gash on his shield arm. “Asleif!” he shouted in exasperation, “Did you miss the entire battle? We won!”

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Filed under Excerpt, gay, Historical, Jamie Fessenden, Romance, Viking, Work in Progress, Writing

What I’ve been up to lately

008Things have been pretty quiet on both my adult blog (https://jamiefessenden.com/) and my YA blog (http://jameserich.com/) over the past few months, so perhaps it’s time to let people know what I’ve got going on.

So I did have a novel (Violated) come out in the fall, and it did pretty well. It’s pretty dark, and the resolution — while happy — isn’t the big catharsis a lot of readers hoped for, simply because my goal was realism. A story like this isn’t resolved by an epic bout of sobbing in your lover’s arms. Ever. Derek and Russ find the best possible, realistic happily-ever-after for them.

At Christmas time, I was delighted to be offered the chance to do a Christmas story on the WROTE Podcast — one of twelve stories representing the twelve days of Christmas in the carol. I hadn’t had time to get out any of the Christmas stories I was working on (I have one contemporary novella in the works, a free holiday story that revolves around the characters in the Dreams of Fire and Gods series, and a re-write of a previously published novella), so this was a great opportunity. I’m delighted with how the story came out, and Brad Vance‘s wonderful narration! All of the stories are terrific, so if you’re still in the mood for Christmas….

Brad also conducted a great interview of me, aided by my friend, Scott Coatsworth, if you’re interested.

Moving forward, I’m currently working on a novella about alien abduction for the next Gothika anthology (see previous installments: Stitch, Bones, Claw, and Spirit). Eli Easton, who originated the series (I helped a little), won’t be joining us on this installment. The authors participating in this issue are Kim Fielding, BG Thomas, FE Feeley Jr., and myself.

As far as which novels I’m working on goes, I’m having a little trouble with that one. I have several in the works. My YA novel Martian Born, a novel about a spy in the Soviet Union during the cold war (currently called Chimera), and a novelization of the Jomsviking Saga, about a fortress full of Vikings in the tenth century. I’m also tentatively working on an untitled novel about “cavemen” (what we used to call Cro-Magnon Man, but is now referred to as “Early Modern Humans” or “Anatomically Modern Humans,” because they are physically no different from us).

This probably sounds like I need to focus, and that would be correct. Martian Born is closest to being finished, but it’s intended for the mainstream science fiction market. This means a long, tedious process of sending queries to agents — most likely over a year or two, if not longer — because mainstream publishers, by and large, no longer accept submissions directly from authors. So while I do want to get that process moving, I’m also looking at getting other novels out more quickly.

This probably means I’ll either finish up Chimera or The Vikings of Jomsborg. But both still have a lot of work to do on them.

In the meantime, I have two stories that will be coming out soon. One is actually the first part of Chimera, presented as a short story called Train to Sevmash. This will be part of an anthology published by DSP Publications. I wrote the story first, then got permission from the editor of the anthology to expand it into a novel.

The second story is in an anthology put together by BG Thomas called A More Perfect Union — a collection of stories about same-sex marriage written by gay men who are actually married. My story, Destined, is a fictionalized account of how I met my husband and how we created our life together. The characters aren’t exactly me and Erich, but the events are largely true.

This has gotten lengthy, and I haven’t even touched on other projects I’ve been working on, such as finishing the Dogs of Cyberwar trilogy (I’m nearly done the second novella (A Mote in the Eye), but my publisher wants the third, before we move ahead), the samurai tale I’ve been adapting (Shinosuke), and the sequel to Murder on the Mountain, which is in the plotting stages (murder mysteries take a lot of plotting).

Yes, I’m a bit over-extended. But it’s my fault — ideas keep popping into my head. I just need to focus and prioritize.

In the meantime, I have the re-release of my first novel, Murderous Requiem, available for pre-order on DSP Publications. It will be released on March 22nd. This edition isn’t enormously different from the first, but I did go through and tighten things a bit, as well as clarify some of the confusing sexual issues in the novel. The story centers around an occult order in what is basically a “free love” commune, so all of the characters are in open relationships. This upsets some readers, who regard it as “cheating.” I do not. I wrote it for my friends who are involved in open or polyamorous relationships where everything is up front and honest, and everyone’s feelings are taken into account.

But that isn’t actually what the novel is about, anyway. It’s about an ancient manuscript containing a requiem mass that, when performed, may cause death… or possibly may resurrect the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

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