Character Interview: Eire’s Viking by Sandi Layne

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Éire’s Viking Character Interview with Agnarr

Agnarr Halvardson is a Viking from Nordweg –an Ostman. We have the pleasure of his company today.

Hello, Agnarr! I enjoy visiting different countries and learning about their cultures and trades. You’ve traveled a lot. Do you enjoy those things?

Different people did not interest me. I wanted only to gain wealth through what they had and take it back to my family, my village.

When did you first realize you belonged in Éire?

*He blows out a breath and rocks on the balls of his feet.*  The first time I saw the land, I knew it would make a good home for me and my family, if they would come. I wanted to return for the land. Having met Cowan—I knew that the men there were much like the men I knew in Balestrand. I felt I could make a life for myself. And so I have.

Let’s split straws: did you return for Éire or Eir?

Straws? I do not split straws. It is a waste of time. Do not tell Cowan, but his wife, my former trell, was the first reason I returned, ja. I thought my wyrd—my fate—was to be with her. I was wrong. *Shrugs* This does not happen often.

Are names significant to you? What does your name mean?

Names? They are names. The one a man earns is significant, but the one he gains from his father is how he is known. My name means I am fierce in battle.

viking-swords 7th to 11th centuries

Was it challenging for you to learn Gaelic?

Ja! *Shakes his head* But there was no choice.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?

Strangest? Strangest thing I have yet seen was a thunderstorm in midwinter. *Grimacing, he rolls his shoulders.* It was uncanny.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen?

Watching a man grown attack a gate with his head. Erik the Hard-Headed earned his name well, that day.

How much of the Viking culture is influenced by the struggle to survive harsh conditions?

My people are strong. We are strong, I think, because of the land in which we are born.  Culture? Our way of life? I do not know for certain, but I do know that not many from warmer countries could survive in Nordweg. Our stories tell of our forefathers, the gods, and they teach good lessons. Would we need these lessons if we lived in a softer climate? I do not know. But I have heard many stories in Éire, and they are very different from what I grew up hearing.

(Note from Sandi: Sorry, Jess – Agnarr doesn’t quite get the concept of culture, but he did his best. lol)

Exhibition_in_Viking_Ship_Museum,_Oslo_01

The daily routine on a skipniu must be grueling. Can you share what it was like?

*Grins at her use of the proper term.* Well, the rowing is grueling, ja. We sit on chests or benches and row as the sun climbs in the sky. But when the sails are full, we sit. We wait. It is dirty, on a skipniu, and a man gets tired of salted fish. It is crowded, too, when we have had a good raid.

How many raids would a man take part in before retiring?

Eh. It is not the raids, but the summers away. Each man has his own destiny to follow. Some die before they reach the shore, others grow old enough to rest by the fire or go fishing.

Do you count age by years? Seasons? Who is considered old?

*Flexes his arms – just a little.* We are civilized and count by years. When a man has seen fifty years, he is considered old. I, myself, am in my middle years, as I am over thirty.

How is it determined if a couple may marry and at what age do most people marry for the first time?

A girl may marry for the first time by the age of sixteen, unless there is something wrong with her. It is the duty of her father to find her a husband, and he does so by conferring with men of age or by the fathers of younger men. It is a fair business, and we say that once a woman is wedded, she is then to be dreaded. *chuckles* It is usually a woman who will end a marriage. It is not hard for her to do, if she has cause.

What are the rules of courtship?

A man and a woman, once betrothed, may not spend time alone together. It is unseemly. It is very different in Éire, I’ve found, and I think the Éire-landers make more sense. A man has to have money for his bride, both for the bride price and for the morning after the wedding. *winks*

The Vikings consider marriage to be a permanent relationship, quite independent of emotion. How does one pick a wife? What traits are most admired?

It is a permanent relationship unless the husband does not do his duty for the wife. Then she may divorce him. I, however, will not fail my wife in any way. *nods* Marriage is for the mutual support of the families, you know. It is not a personal thing – it is for all of them. A bride will always belong to her family, so if she goes to a man, her family wants him to be of good standing, so that will improve their status as well. Halvard’s family has always had high status among our people, for example, and there were many fathers who wished to wed their daughters to Halvard’s sons.

A wife’s chief duty is to see to it that the family has food and clothing to last during our long winters. Within the walls of the langhús, she has authority and control in that regard. So if the girl is smart, good with her loom, and can make good cheeses, she is a good candidate for a wife.

What is the average family size in the communities where you’ve lived? Are families in Nordweg smaller than families in Éire? Is that due to the weather?

It is a true thing that fully one out of every three people born in Nordweg do not reach an age of maturity. This is why I am settling in Éire. There is better land and a longer growing season—one could see that by seeing what the Islanders stored for the winters, there. It is a prosperous land. I have seen many more small children in Éire than I was accustomed to seeing in Nordweg. I plan on having many, myself. *nods*

Why do you suppose Charis and Cowan did not adopt more children?

Who knows why Charis does or does not do anything? *shrugs* The woman makes no sense to me. *He smiles reflectively.* It is possible that they found Aislinn to be a handful all on her own…

Vikings seem to have less restrictive gender roles than many more modern societies. Would you agree?

The women of Nordweg are very strong and do have much control in society, yes. As to modern? What is modern? I think they do well, and they do not complain.

Is falling in love considered disadvantageous or is it merely odd?

Love? A feeling? This is something I am still trying to understand. Love is not good sense. A woman loves her children. Her parents. But it is not beneficial and serves no purpose for a warrior. Aislinn, though, finds this feeling to be important. I still do not know why.

medieval hair viking we heart it

Tell us about Aislinn.

*His expression stills for a moment before he frowns, though there is a twinkle in his eye.* She is a kvinn medisin – a healer. She would say a physician. She is a good one, too. I have not seen her make cheese, but she does do fine spinning and weaving. Through Cowan, she is related to a king of her people. I was surprised when I found she was unwed, but they do things differently in Éire.

At first, I thought she was a goddess. I learned differently soon. She is much like Charis and I do not want to touch the sharp edge of her tongue. *He allows himself a small smile, here.*

I do think she would make a good wife. She is tall and strong and would bear fine sons, I am sure of it. *shrugs* I am setting aside gold for a bride price, but her father will not compel her to wed me. I will have to convince her on my own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Summary: 
 
Ten years after Charis marries Cowan at the end of Éire’s Captive Moon, Agnarr Halvardson returns to the Green Island—this time, to stay.  He wants what any man wants:  To make a life for himself, wed, and have sons.
Before he can express these goals, he is injured and taken to Bangor Monastery.  There, Aislinn—adopted daughter of Cowan and Charis—treats him as a patient while she ignores the immediate attraction he holds for her.
Agnarr decides Aislinn would be a good wife for him as she teaches him her language and customs. She commands his respect and wins his affection. The past is just one barrier of many between them, however.
There are new invaders to Éire. Pledging his loyalty to the new king of Dál Fiatach, Agnarr prepares to defend his new home while persuading Aislinn to be his wife.
Success or failure will affect the lives of many.
Author Bio:
There are many profiles that detail the author’s lifelong dream of authorship being realized with the publication of their first novel or short story.  This is not one of those profiles.
To make an exceedingly odd story moreso, Sandi Layne had no wish to be a writer, but went through a storyline bootcamp in the form of strange dreams for a month and took careful notes.  Fifteen years later, she’s still writing stories that veer slightly off the beaten path, both in Christian and historical fiction.
Married for more than twenty years to a very tolerant (and brilliant!) man, she has two sons, no pets, and a plethora of imaginary friends.  Her interests range from ancient civilizations to science fiction for both reading and research.  With degrees in English and Ministry, she also claims Theology’s crimson Masters collar which she has been known to don on rare occasions.
If you drive by her window before dawn, it is likely she’ll have a light on for you. Or at the very least, she’ll be alert on twitter.  She invites you to visit her online space athttp://sandyquill.com. Bring coffee.
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Refuse to be Homogenized

Refuse to be Homogenized—Beauty, Bullying and Media “Mean Girls” Reblogged from author Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Yes, Kristen will never be a toothpick. 140 pounds in this picture and 5' 3" (technically overweight)

140 pounds (at 5’3″) in this picture and an “old” 35.

Last week I wrote two posts Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks—What Are Writers to Do? and Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?. The first post was my own story of enduring hoards of Mean Girls and bullies in school (I switched schools 18 times).

Many people in the comments seemed perplexed as to WHY bullies acted the way they did and how to handle them. Thus, the second post offered even more tips and my Armchair Neuroscientist explanation as to what FEEDS bullies what they CRAVE (and tips to shut bullies down).

A Culture of Control

Since these two posts, I’ve received hundreds of comments and loads of messages and links shared on Facebook. This prompted me to speak a bit more on this topic. My opinion? I feel we live in a culture of bullies. We see it everywhere.

Yes, Steve Jobs was a genius, yeah, yeah, yeah. But, he was also a legendary nightmare boss and a foaming-at-the-mouth-bully…who will be remembered for all time for being awesome. Marissa Mayer (the current CEO of Yahoo) is well-known for being ruthless and even cruel to the employees, yet she’s rewarded.

Wonderful.

The corporate world is rife with bullying (which is often encouraged) and mob mentality rules…and we won’t go there. Not enough room on today’s soap box. And, yes I am speaking out on this issue because things need to change. Look at any major cultural revolution and writers probably started it.

I think that’s probably why coups and dictators shoot us first.

Media Mean Girls

In advertising, I feel we see a subtler form of bullying. As a white female, I am unattractive if I’m not a size 0-2 with flawless 20-year-old skin and giant Angelina Jolie poofy lips. I’ve always been muscular. Right now, I am 158 pounds and a size 6-8 (and buy my jeans at Cabela’s because only gals with guns apparently have curves).

I have 42-inch shoulders and an hourglass shape. I have hips and THIGHS. Yet, try to shop anywhere other than an ethnic store or a hunting store and what I find are rows and rows of Skinny Jeans, Matchstick Jeans, and Toothpick Jeans.

Seriously???

Use my skinny @$$ to hold hors d’oeuvres together. Yay!

Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become sexy?

Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become the ONLY sexy?

The attractive Size 6-12 woman is the New Media Sasquatch.

If THIS is Plus-Size? SIGN ME UP!

If THIS is Plus-Size? SIGN ME UP!

The image above is Australian model Robyn Lawley (who is a Size 16, 180 pounds…and 6′ 2″, btw) and the photo is from the Huffington Article Robyn Lawley Is The New Face Of Plus-Size Lingerie Line Boux Avenue (PHOTOS).

Me at 5'3", 165 pounds and a Size 10.

Me at 5’3″, 168 pounds and a Size 10-12.

Sigh

I’ve given up on women’s magazines. I tried buying a handful of copies of More? *rolls eyes* This was supposed to be a magazine that catered to women 30 and over. The issues I purchased mostly had pictures of food. Recipes. Diets. Craft projects. Face-scrubbers.

Have a hot 45-year-old in a sexy lingerie ad? Are you nuts? 

When women’s magazines have an article about how to do our makeup as we age, do they have a 40-something model? NO. A twenty-something (ok, we can throw in a Hollywood starlet “repaired” with plastic surgery).

W…T…H?

I also bought a copy of Women’s Health. As an athletic/curvy woman, I have a hard time finding clothes. I can be 100 pounds and still have a butt and thighs and wide shoulders and big arms (um, look at my wedding picture). So, in this past October’s issue, WH had this feature of dress clothes for the athletic woman. Did they use any of the gorgeous muscular women from their workout routines or ads? Nope. They used six-foot tall toothpicks.

Oh, and they were all super-young because we all know any woman over thirty is a fat slob who lives in sweatpants and wolfs down donuts daily. DUH.

Have We as Consumers Unwittingly Encouraged This?

We’ve allowed Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the fashion industry to tell us that anorexia is healthy and aging women should be hidden. They are at least classy enough not to recommend a burkha. Our culture treats aging like ebola. With all the creams, surgeries, injections and procedures, one might think growing older was a disease. We’ve shamed women about their bodies and faces so they’ll line-up and hand out cash for creams, diets, magazines and surgery.

I’m not quite sure, but I think smile lines might be captured in a tube at the CDC somewhere deep in the belly of the Earth, cached away with smallpox and Spanish Flu.

What this “bullying” has created is a generation of older women who either give up or go to extremes and even plastic surgery addiction (um, Jenna Lee?). Young girls are lining up for breast implants even though their bodies have yet to fully develop. Truly athletic women live in yoga pants because one can’t have muscles and wear Matchstick Jeans.

Oh, but even yoga pants are no longer safe. Lululemon’s CEO blamed the “piling” of their overpriced yoga pants on women’s thighs and bodies (not the quality or lack thereof regarding the product). I’ve been 11% body fat before and my thighs still touched.

*GASP* THE SHAME!

Benevolent Bullies

And if we don’t fit the “Hollywood Image”? Angels with plastic surgery skills will step in and help the hideous. Maybe I’m missing something, but when one of my Facebook friends posted this article in Today Health, I wanted to cry: Tormented over their looks? Bullied teens seek free plastic surgery from a NYC nonprofit.

This young teen, first of all, had yet to fully grow into her looks. I was actually kinda goofy-looking when I was her age. When I was her age, I’d also suffered my front teeth knocked out when I was 8 and my nose broken at 10 (so I had a crooked nose and gapped teeth for a time). I never had braces or surgery on my nose. Time allowed me to “grow into my face” so to speak.

This girl was beautiful, but the surgeons benevolently made her “more acceptable.” Boy, I bet the bullies cheered when they could cower someone into slicing up their face for “approval.”

She didn’t have a cleft palate or an extra ear. She had a unique nose.

Why are we allowing this homogenization?

A Jewish nose or Armenian nose or an African nose is just as lovely and far more interesting than a fake Hollywood nose. Sarah Jessica Parker is an actress I respect and admire. She has embraced her lovely and distinctive features and continues to have a great career. On the other hand, Jennifer Grey (from the original Dirty Dancing) gave into the pressure of bullying and traded being a stunning Jewish woman to be a “cute white girl”…and hasn’t really worked since.

Embrace gaps in teeth, different noses, freckles, curves and wild, curly hair. Embrace the naturally super thin gal as well as the gal with curves. There are all different kinds of beauty and we are missing that as a culture.

Be brave!

Refuse to Give in to Bullies

Write to the editors. Stop buying magazines who don’t represent you. Complain to store managers. Refuse to allow cultural bullies to make you a drone. We should not permit bullies to create the agenda or affect our behavior.

And I’m not saying I don’t highlight my hair, use creams to take care of my skin or exercise so I can age well. I stay out of the sun, take loads of vitamins and kale and my Vitamix are my best friends. But where I see the problem is instead of being shown how to look great and age well we’re brainwashed into believing we shouldn’t age at all. I have NO CLUE if I look good for my age. Everyone is Photoshopped or Botoxed. What does a healthy weight even look like?

Granted, I’ve used tools on Pic Monkey to brighten the light, enhance the color of the image, erase smeared mascara/eyeliner, cover a blemish or crop a good picture taken from a bad angle that makes my arm look like it’s the size of a small oak, but I leave my smile lines. I earned them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 9.09.38 AM

Me at Size 12 with….neck wrinkles *hides face*

Me at Size 12 with….neck wrinkles *hides face*

I’m not opposed to plastic surgery, creams, botox, etc. so long as our decisions are for healthy reasons. For instance, if I ever start looking like an issue of National Geographic? Breast augmentation might be a consideration :D. But my desire is to be the best darn looking 50 or 60 year-old I can be, not to try and look like I’m 20 (and only end up looking bizarre).

When It Comes to Blogging/Writing

Blog. Write what you want. Wear what you want. Laugh a lot and make some smile lines. Be you. There is only ONE, you know ;). You are precious, unique and one-of-a-kind. There will never in human history be another YOU.

And THAT is super cool.

If you blog, don’t shut down your comments because of fear. Then you are allowing bullies to deprive you of the joy of a wonderful, loving, supportive community. THEY WIN. When their behavior makes us alter our lives, or harms our self-esteems? They score bully-points. Whether they can get us to change our habits (hiding in a library, avoiding the coffee break room), our on-line activity (shutting down comments or taking down a site or profile) or even harass us into needless surgery, THEY WIN.

Regular bullies profit from shaming others because of the high it gives them. Bullies in the form of corporations, advertising, the fashion industry, magazines and surgeons profit from shame with…um, money.

We can be the change we seek.

So many of you make me SO PROUD when you dare to write stories with characters who are different, older, ethnic, overweight, clumsy, etc. You show the light beyond the surface so keep doing it!

What are your thoughts? Have you given up buying clothes? Given up on “women’s” magazines? Do you feel our culture is driven by bullying because it creates insecurity which equals profit? Do you have children and what are you doing to help them feel good about who they are and resist the Drone Deception? Are you tired of all actresses and models looking like they fell off an assembly line? Do you have a hard time finding clothes? Do you write (or enjoy) characters who are different? I, personally, LOVE writing love stories with seniors (two have won awards).

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!