Dinah of Seneca by Corrina Lawson, alternate history, Romans, Vikings

I’ve been intently watching Vikings on the History Channel this year. They’ve upped the storytelling a great deal, though it remains a very dense show. There isn’t a clear-cut hero but Ragnor, the lead Viking, is infinitely interesting as are many of the cast.

Plus, I just love the storyworld, not the least because I immersed myself in Viking culture to write Dinah of Seneca. One of the key scenes in my book features an alliance wedding with an exchange of swords, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to see something similar on television last night.

So I thought I’d share my own scene. Note: this is alternate history, where the Vikings and the Romans both ended up in North America.

*****************

“Do we need a priest?” she said, licking her lips.What, she wondered, would it be like to bed this man? Not easy or tender. Intense. Passionate.

Gerhard shook his head. “A marriage among my people consists of vows before at least three witnesses. We have more than enough witnesses.”

She nodded and tried to stare anywhere but at his face. She settled for staring at the laces of his wool tunic. A cruel joke of the gods to give her exactly what she’d prayed for, a husband, in exactly a manner she would fear the most. Gerhard took her hand, his sword calluses rubbing against her raw skin.

She raised her head and made contact with his blue eyes again. Caught.

“Repeat after me.”

She did her best to mimic his words. Their language was rough and sounded angry to her ears, rather than smooth and careful like Latin. In the silence, their voices echoed around the cavern. Gerhard said the oaths first in his language, insisted she do the same, then explained them for her in Latin, so she understood the promises. She agreed to care for him, despite good or bad circumstances, and he agreed to care for any children of her body. That was worded oddly and her tongue stumbled over the  phrase.

Her skin grew warmer, her voice clearer as the ceremony went on. She had never considered what her wedding could be like. She’d pictured her marriage beginning as her new husband and she moved into the same home, an arrangement that would be legally recognized, ceremony or not.

This was more.

It seemed another presence entered the cavern, Freya or one of the other Norse gods that Gerhard had called on to bless their union or perhaps one of he New World spirits who still lived close to this cave. Their presence made the ceremony a sacred  oath-bond, a bond that tightened around her chest, threatening to choke off breath.

Yet if she was bound, would not Gerhard be as well? Mykle said something from his place, a few paces behind Gerhard. Gerhard snapped his head to look at Mykle. They scowled at each other. Mykle said something, his voice lower but more sneering.  Gerhard raised his voice and chopped his hand in front of him. Even she understood the “cease and desist” in that gesture. Mykle shook his head but didn’t talk again. The other warriors lowered their heads or looked away from Mykle.

So, some among Gerhard’s tribe opposed this marriage. They were probably as displeased about Gerhard marrying a Roman as she was about marrying a barbarian. Again, why had Gerhard done this? He could have just agreed to the alliance or even slaughtered her and the rest of the Romans. Or slaughtered the rest and taken her.Sacred oath-bound or deception? She did not know which was worse.

An odd silence fell as Gerhard turned back to her, his expression now blank. There was so much about this that she didn’t understand. “Dinah.” Gerhard cleared his throat. “Listen.” She blinked her eyes and nodded. Gerhard said a word that sounded like “mother,” which rooted her firmly back in reality. He bowed to her, took out his sword and offered it to her, hilt first.

“It is custom among our people that the wife receive the husband’s sword, to hold in keeping for their eldest son.”

His face filled with a sudden hope, which died so soon Dinah wondered if she’d imagined it. Her hand shook as she closed it over the jeweled hilt. Good workmanship, there, she thought. Someone had set the gems in far enough that they wouldn’t interfere with wielding the sword. And the blade was steel. Gerhard’s people had been wealthy once, to trade with Romans for steel.

After a moment, Gerhard took his hand off the sword, raising his eyebrow to her. She could end this right now if she wanted, she knew enough about handling swords to run him through.But this sword was for a son. A family.

Your sons will be kings.Flee or stand? The choice was now.

Dinah of Seneca by Corrina Lawson, alternate history, Romans, Vikings

Dinah of Seneca is now available in ebook form at Amazon, B&N, and my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, for $2.99.

This is great news for me for many reasons. And now I’m going to plead to you to give the book a chance at the lower price and why you should. :)

It’s my first very sale and thus, it holds an incredibly special place in my heart. It’s a book with a premise so unusual I had been told it would never sell at all. And it’s inspired by two disparate but favorite stories of mine, Birds of Prey from DC Comics (writers Chuck Dixon & Gail Simone) and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan SF series.

The unusual premise?

The Roman Empire of this tenth century stretches from Russia in the East to a new continent in the West. But a new continent brings new threats to their rule. The Roman garrison in Seneca, located in modern-day New York, lacks the supplies and men needed to defeat an alliance of native Mahicans and immigrant Vikings.
Dinah, a former slave trained in espionage, had hoped Seneca would be the start of a new life. Instead, she’d pulled back into war. If Seneca is to survive, Dinah must reconcile her allegiance to Rome with her chance to create her own destiny in the New World with Gerhard, the Viking Chief.

Yes, I put Romans in North America, after extending their Empire an additional 500 years. This idea has been rolling around in my head every since I was a teenager and read S.P. Somtow’s Aquila series, in which a Sioux chief continually outwitted a Roman governor. A new Aquila story was one of the joys of getting Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in the mailbox when I was growing up.

And..Vikings? Well, they had been in the New World even in reality. I just moved them south a little bit.

Why? Because there are a fascinating contrast. Romans are a very patriarchal, rigid society, and Vikings were far more democratic and equal between the genders than is generally realized. Add to that the matriarchal society of the Native Americans, who had mixed with my wandering Viking raiders, and the cultural contrasts and conflicts offered a huge canvas for me as a writer.

And it’s a nice parallel to Britain around 500 A.D. as the leftover Romans, invading Saxons, and Celtic tribes vied for supremacy. Yes, it occurred to me I could riff on the Arthurian myth in some ways.

But that’s just the background. It’s the character of Dinah who I adore and who sometimes breaks my heart.

Dinah was named after Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary) of DC Comics, because I loved her mix of strength and connection to family. My Dinah begins the book lost and alone. She’s escaped slavery to create a new life for herself but she hasn’t truly escaped the past, as she pins her hopes on belonging to the man who helped her escape, Tabor, the local Roman commander. But Tabor is her patron, not her love, and Dinah soon finds out to truly belong somewhere, she had to reject the society she hoped to join.

Dinah is physically brave but emotionally terrified because she’s never had a true home and wants one so badly.

Then there’s Gerhard, the sometimes sullen Viking chief who decides Dinah was sent by his gods to be with him. He has good reasons for thinking the gods have done exactly this but he’s patient enough to let events play out and prove to Dinah that he’s right. Or maybe that’s just his excuse for falling in love with her after she spies on his camp.  Gerhard is somewhat of a mystery to me. He never gets a point of view and I’m sure he likes it that way.

That’s where Bujold’s stories come in because another idea behind this was “What if two Aral Vorkosigans existed in the same place but on opposite sides?” And that’s where the Roman Tabor and the Viking Gerhard come in. Enemies? Allies? Can they trust each other?

Dinah and Gerhard’s love story was a joy to write because neither of them rely on words. It’s all actions and when they commit, it’s solid and unyielding, even if it takes time and fightings through a literal army for each other to cement that commitment.

Also, I got to write a big old-fashioned medieval battle with Romans, Vikings and Native Americans involved, made some stuff blow up, delved a bit into ancient steampunk with the somewhat more advanced Roman technology, and there’s a moment near the end that surprised and delighted me, a calvary arriving just in time thing that I didn’t even know was coming and I love every time I re-read it. Oh, and there is a somewhat R/X rated fertility ritual scene that I should either warn or encourage you to read. :)

So, those are all the reasons why I love the story.

I cannot guarantee you’ll love reading it–I actually hate making a book sales pitch saying “it’s awesome, you’ll love it,” because reader taste is so very individual. But I hope you’ll give it a try, especially for $2.99. I feel such dedication to these characters and I would love to see them reach a wider audience because they deserve it.

Oh, and I have two upcoming comic stories set in the Seneca universe. One will be out in May,  features Tabor, and takes place after the events of the book.  You can see the first page below! So the Seneca-verse lives and will continue to live, either in novel or comic form. (The second book is Eagle of Seneca, details on my book page on this site.)

The second comic story is a prequel to the book and details how Dinah & Tabor ended up exiled from Europe and in the new world. No stuff blowing up there but I did manage a pitched battle and a little bit of nasty knife-work. :)  I can’t wait to see the pages on that.

 

Hey,

I’m  usually so slammed with writing posts for GeekMom and GeekDad that I don’t get a chance to do guest posts on a blog tour. But I managed to get this one and there’s a giveaway of Eagle of Seneca involved, so check out Where Do My Mixed Up Genre Ideas Come From?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eagle of Seneca by Corrina Lawson

Eagle of Seneca

by Corrina Lawson

Giveaway ends January 31, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I’ve also got a small giveaway going on at Gail Simone’s forums on Brian Bendis’ Jinxworld. You just have to pop into the thread to enter.

Leonard Da Vinci's flying machine, the inspiration for Ceti's aquila

I’ve been remiss about publicity for Eagle of Seneca, absorbed in finishing the GeekMom book. So this is going to be my BSP week for what I’ve been calling my ancient steampunk story. And this scene, the first with Ceti in this book, illustrates why.

*******************
“Ceti, doesn’t what happened to this man worry you?” Gaius pointed to a headless figure resting against the outside wall of the engineer’s workshop. “A person would have been killed.”

“A person would have been able to land the aquila properly,” Ceti said, grinning. He felt like whistling. The last test flight had almost been perfect. He’d strapped the straw man, packed with heavy metal, into the aquila to test the effect of its weight on the flight. His creation had glided in the wind perfectly, even with the added burden of a person.

Well, the replica of a person.

“The wings handled the load just fine. And unlike the straw man, I’ll be able to control the aquila on the way down,” Ceti said.

“He lost his head,” Gaius answered.

“His head was sewn on. Mine better attached.”

**********************

Those who’ve read Dinah of Seneca will recognize Ceti, who’s a bit older and wiser now.

 

 

Born under a comet, Sky of the Lenape Wolf Clan tries

to live up to the destiny prophesied for her, but so far
she can’t understand what the gods want. When Ceti,
an engineer from the Roman colony of Mannahatta, literally
falls at her feet, Sky sees this as a sign and claims him.

 

Ceti is charged with protecting Mannahatta from an invasion.
The Emperor has sent his Imperial Fleet to bring the breakaway
colony back under his control, and Ceti sees a new test glider
as the key to victory—until it crashes and forever changes his fate.

Love may be enough for Ceti and Sky to overcome their personal
differences. But forging their two peoples into a force to fight
the Imperial Fleet means risking all, including their hearts.
Will it be enough?

Now available at The Wild Rose Press in print or as an ebook or at Amazon.


Woot!!! :)

I’ll be doing a giveaway next week in a few different places but I can’t let the release day go by without thanking Toni Andrews, Kristan Higgins and Dee Clancy, who helped me plot the book out one busy weekend.

And especially to Kristin for making me a t-shirt that says “And so Princess Fiery Wo-Ha lead her people to the Sacred Woo-Woo, thus saving their pathetic lives.”

Even if I did change the plot a little bit from that.

I couldn’t resist putting in a warrior using a glider to divebombing a battleship while tossing hand grenades instead.

And as the above sentence implies, there’s definitely an ancient steampunk feel to this book that makes it different than the first Seneca story.

Born under a comet, Sky of the Lenape Wolf Clan tries to live up to the destiny prophesied for her, but so far she can’t understand what the gods want. When Ceti, an engineer from the Roman colony of Mannahatta, literally falls at her feet, Sky sees this as a sign and claims him.

Ceti is charged with protecting Mannahatta from an invasion. The Emperor has sent his Imperial Fleet to bring the breakaway colony back under his control, and Ceti sees a new test glider as the key to victory—until it crashes and forever changes his fate.

Love may be enough for Ceti and Sky to overcome their personal differences. But forging their two peoples into a force to fight the Imperial Fleet means risking all, including their hearts. Will it be enough?

And look, it matches the Dinah cover so nicely!

Dinah of Seneca

This is the sequel to Dinah of Seneca, set in the same alternate universe where the Roman Empire survived to colonize North America. This one takes place mostly on ancient Manhattan:

Born under a comet, Sky of the Lenape Wolf Clan tries to live up to the destiny prophesied for her, but
so far she can’t understand what the gods want. When Ceti, an engineer from the Roman colony of
Mannahatta, literally falls at her feet, Sky sees this as a sign and claims him.

Ceti is charged with protecting Mannahatta from an invasion. The Emperor has sent his Imperial Fleet to bring the breakaway colony back under his control, and Ceti sees a new test glider as the key to victory—until it crashes and forever changes his fate.

Love may be enough for Ceti and Sky to overcome their personal differences. But forging their two peoples into a force to fight the Imperial Fleet means risking all, including their hearts. Will it be enough?

*******************

For those that read Dinah, many familiar faces appear. For those of you that read Freya’s Gift, well, fifteen years have passed and it seems at least one of those conceived in that story is ready to begin his journey.

And for fun:

Yes, my favorite Roman General is back in this book too….

If There Was Movie, Tabor Would So Be Russell Crowe

Yes, I have to put this over in my review page but I wanted to share it here too because, well, I like praise.

Dinah of Seneca reviewed over at Scribblerworks.

And, yes, later today will come the second part of Lee Child. I got distracted by stuff, including my birthday….

I’ve also added the link to my review page but I wanted to make a separate post about the review because it’s my first for Dinah of Seneca and the reviewer really got the story, which thrilled me to no end.

Quote:

“Final Verdict: I think, given that many of us like our action mixed with a bit of romance and vice versa, this is a book with a wide appeal to fandom in particular. It’s well-researched, well-written, and enjoyable; classics geeks will like the setting and structure, but it’s not so specific that anyone else will feel shut out. It took me about two chapters to get into it, but after that I kept coming back to it whenever I had a spare moment, and I finished it over the course of a weekend which for me is pretty good. ”

The review did send pondering again about what exactly what genre my stories belong in.

I think Dinah of Seneca and Freya’s Gift are both alternate history romance, though the short story has much less action. Okay, much less physical action. Okay, wait, much less action involving *steel* swords and battles. :)

Basically, I wrote exactly the kind of romance I enjoy reading. But I have the feeling what I write is not what people envision when they hear the word “romance.” I was talking to an agent at a conference a couple of months ago and she said what I write falls into the gray category where it would likely not be on the romance shelves but, like Lois McMaster Bujold and Linnea Sinclair, it would be in the SF/F shelves in a bookstore.

It’s not an issue right now because the novella is an ebook and Dinah of Seneca won’t get mass distribution from my small press publisher. But it does confirm to me that I write in that gray area that I call relationship stories–though I can say right now that I can’t stand to write an unhappy ending.

I can write tense stories where bad things happen but I’m not going to write an out and out tragedy. It’s just not in me.

I want some hope in what I read. And I can’t write a story without some hope in it.

*Aside on the reviewer: Dr. Who & Torchwood fans should check out the rest of copperbadge’s livejournal. It has some great, great posts.