Axe of Iron series

stacks_image_507 stacks_image_443 Assimilation

Book Tour To Canada

Hi Folks,

We leave tomorrow morning for a driving book tour of Idaho, Montana, and Alberta, CA, so this will have to suffice for a blog until our return on or about 6 October.
I expect to do some excerpt readings for interested fans while in Alberta, so wish me luck.

All the Best to You,
Jerry
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Review--Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel


Confrontation details the dangers and hardships of a large mixed group of Greenland Vikings and their attempts at a peaceful assimilation with the pre-historical natives of what is now the Province of Quebec, Canada, 1000-years ago.

Click on the title link to read a review of the second novel of the Axe of Iron series, Confrontation. Christie Olsen Field, of the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper wrote this review last summer.

Other reviewers opinions of Confrontation may be read on my website, under the Reviews button, here, along with synopsis and excerpts of the book.
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30 Viking graves found in Setesdal


Views and News from Norway

August 3, 2011

Thirty graves believed to originate from the Viking period have been discovered in the valley of Setesdal, southern Norway. The major discovery earlier this summer was made in connection with a road project in the area.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the burial area, near the settlement of Langeid, was first found in June as part of archaeological surveys connected to work on state highway 9, a road that winds through the scenic valley.

The graves lay side-by-side in deep, rectangular pits around 1.5 to 2.5 meters long. Most of the graves are believed to have been made between 900 and some point in the 1000's, although some of the graves could predate the Vikings by centuries.

A preliminary study last year had already found traces of archaeological interest in the region, including cooking pits and signs of early agricultural cultivation that suggest a settlement was built nearby. Early estimates believe this settlement may long predate the graves, and could go as far back as 600 BC.

As the graves have been found among moraine (accumulations of unconsolidated glacial debris characterized by stones and sand), researchers have found that much of the organic matter has been eroded away. Some remains have been found outside of the graves in the same area, but require further analysis before it can be determined whether they are animal or human. One grave found so far has postholes in all four corners, indicating that a structure with a roof was built over the grave at some point. Such a burial arrangement is usually reserved for those with higher status.

In terms of artifacts found on the site, field leader Camilla C. Wenn of the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, told Aftenposten, "we have taken out a series of remains from the 10 graves that have been opened so far." Finds from these graves reported by Wenn include "three simple iron axes, of which one is dated from the period 850 to 950," as well as "a few knives and sickles, a pair of scales made with a copper alloy, five to six weighing instruments," "several spinning wheels," "two lovely 50 to 60 centimeter long sharpening stones, flint and some detached glass beads." Many of the metal objects found are poorly preserved, with some iron finds so badly corroded that it is difficult to tell what they are without the use of x-ray equipment at the Museum of Cultural History.

Because of the long time periods potentially covered by the graves and the other archaeological finds around them, researchers have lengthened their investigative period until August 19. "It is not unthinkable that we will manage to find further surprises," Wenn concluded.



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Things I’ve Learned About Writing/Publishing

The road to publication has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbie’s, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Believe nobody, and get everything in writing, research, research, and research. Even then, you will have picked the worst time in the world’s economy to enter the business.

Dealing with agents is the most disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of agents, when in fact it is the other way around. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my area of my genre only to find that there are not any in existence. So no, I have no need for an agent. Having said all of that, though, clearing the air so to speak, I do have a few suggestions if you are interested.

Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All literary agents will have their own guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested. Hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. An English teacher is not an editor and you cannot edit your own work, so hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow the submission guidelines.

Okay, it is time to consider your mission—to get published. I will assume that your manuscript is a first draft. Before you can send out query letters telling the world of the birth of the great American novel, your work needs editing. I do not mean having a friend, an English teacher, your boss, or any other layman read your manuscript, no, I mean that you must engage the services of a professional editor. Thus begins the process of polishing your manuscript until it is the best it can be. This process can involve numerous corrections and rewrites. The time and expense involved varies with the quality of the work. One hundred thousand words will cost in the neighborhood of $2000.00, or more, by the time you get it right.

Believe it or not, writing your book is only the beginning. With a final draft of your manuscript in hand, it is time to query. Famous people query with a proposal before writing the book. I will assume that you are not yet famous. As an author, you cannot deal directly with one of the large publishing houses, so your next challenge is to interest a literary agent in your work. If you find a literary agent, your relationship will be contractual. Do nothing with anyone without a contract. Fully understand your part of the contract before signing or hire an attorney versed in literary contracts to help you understand. There are numerous listings of literary agents on the Internet. Research each agent for their submission guidelines, select those receptive to your genre, be certain that they are accepting submissions, submit only what they require, and never send an unsolicited manuscript, they will not read it. Your literary agent will handle your contractual relationship with a publisher; they are your agent acting in your behalf.

If you are fortunate enough to become a published author through the literary agent/publisher/reader sequence of progression, congratulations, you have hit the big time. Your publisher will handle all the details of composition/format, cover design, printing/binding, fulfillment/marketing, and warehouse/distribution, leaving you free to crank out books. You will have little or no input regarding any of the production aspects of your book, nor will you retain any rights other than copyright. The publisher will own the ISBN and all future negotiations for anything concerning that work will be through, or with the permission of, the publisher.

Okay, you have spent a year submitting to literary agents without results. If you have not completely lost interest in publishing your work, you are left with publishing it yourself, e.g. self-publishing or becoming an independent publisher. A self-published author has hired a publishing company to publish a book, surrendering all rights save copyright—this last is negotiable in some instances. An independent publisher has formed a small company and gone through the process from copyright to a finished book ready for the market. That author owns all rights to the book because often the author and the publishing company are one and the same. Books are produced and marketed by an independent publisher working closely with a large full service book production facility such as BookMasters, Ashland, OH, where everything is done in house.

Regardless of the method used to publish your work yourself, you will be responsible for promotion and marketing. In working with an organization such as BookMasters, you will already have a leg up as they handle some of the initial marketing through their own marketing department. Getting the word out before and after the publication date is vital to your sales success. You must have a website and/or a blog that calls attention to your book and ultimately leads a visitor to your order page. If you do not want to handle book sales from your garage, then your website order page will link your customers to your distributor or other points of sale that you have set up. In this way, someone else will take care of the myriad details of the warehousing/distribution of your work.

Solicit professional book reviewers. Do not send them a book until you have queried them first. Be the consummate professional insofar as your contacts with reviewers. Always include a cover letter with your book that includes a short synopsis and your expectations as the author. Reviews are important and they can restore your bruised and battered ego when you read what someone else has to say about your work. Their reviews look good on your website and provide potential customers for your next book a sales closer as they read your book cover’s ad copy.

I have found that conventional print and display advertising on websites is only minimally successful. The mission here is to get your name and that of your book out to as many sites on the Internet as possible. Hire professional people to do this for you, e.g. Theodocia McLean, promotionalservices@booksinsync.com/. Additionally, Amazon is one of the most effective and important book sales tools out there. When you have your book listed with them be sure that you also use their ‘Look Inside the Book’ program. Ditto for Google Book Search. Going through the submission process with Internet book promotion and sales sites is time consuming, but the rewards outweigh this expenditure.

Local booksellers such as Barnes and Noble and Borders do everything possible to arrange and facilitate book-signing events for local authors. So, be certain you contact the individual store’s book manager to set one up for you. They provide a display table and chairs, posters, and a newspaper announcement of the event, and it is all free. In addition, they will order a supply of your books to stock your book-signing. Not a bad deal, I think.

If you do not have letterhead stationery, design some, including the envelope. Remember, you are trying to sell a product, be professional in all of your contacts. Edit religiously, use spell check. Everything that you write is a reflection on you personally, so do it right the first time because the one chance is usually all you will get. And oh, good luck to you.

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2011 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved

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Review of Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel

If you haven't yet begun to read my historical fiction series about the Greenland Vikings you might be interested in what one Canadian reviewer had to say after reading Confrontation, the second novel in the Axe of Iron series.

***
The following is an excerpt of her review from 2010.
 
By Tracy Roberts, Write Field Services, Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada.


"Hunsinger successfully builds on his first novel and adds even more action and adventure. As with the first novel, the story is rich in historical details which clearly show the careful attention paid to historical accuracy which allows the reader to peer through a window into the past and experience an important historical period. He incorporates the fictional tale with historical details which makes reading the story not only fun, but also engaging. Readers will root for Gudbjartur as he struggles with his Norsemen fighting spirit and his desire to make peace with the native people. I highly recommend ‘Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel’ as an entertaining addition to the historical fiction genre. Readers will find the story and characters so compelling that they will not realize that they are learning as they read."
***
Roberts' complete review as well as many others of both novels are available on my website. Click on this direct link.

Thanks for dropping by.



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Suggestions for Querying Literary Agents

It is my hope that the following suggestions, based on my own experience in the world of writer/publisher, will save you from some of the pitfalls you will encounter querying literary agents.

1. The completed first draft of your manuscript begins your odyssey toward publication. Up until now your work has been uniquely personal, something that you have created. Before you can send out query letters telling the world of the birth of the great American novel, your work needs editing. I do not mean having a friend, an English teacher, your boss, or any other nonprofessional read your manuscript; no, I mean that you must engage the services of at least one professional editor, two is better. Thus begins the process of polishing your manuscript until it is the best it can be. This process can involve numerous corrections and rewrites. Do not take it personally; treat the process as a learning experience because that is exactly what it is. The time and expense involved varies with the quality of the work. One hundred thousand words will cost in the neighborhood of $2000.00, or more, by the time you get it right. After all of that effort there will still be errors. The most pervasive and difficult to find are words that sound the same, but have different meanings, e.g. – broach and brooch. The English language is full of such words. I find it easier to correct edits electronically within the Word document rather than by hand with a marked up manuscript. Communication between you and the editor is kept within the document by e-mailing it back and forth. There is less chance of missing necessary changes with the electronic edit and it is easier; edit/rewrite by hand can be a crushing experience for an author. Of course, the choice of methodology is yours to make, just be certain you do not skimp on the capital outlay because this is not the place to save money.

2. Before you begin to query, keep professionalism firmly in mind. If you do not have letterhead stationery, design some, including the envelope. Microsoft Publisher makes great looking forms, business cards, and stationery. Remember, you are trying to sell a product, be professional in all of your contacts. Edit religiously, use spell check. Everything that you write is a reflection on you personally, so do it right the first time because the one chance is usually all you will get.

3. As an author, you cannot deal directly with one of the large publishing houses, so your next challenge is to interest a literary agent in your work. Famous people query with a proposal before writing the book. I will assume that you are not yet famous. For you the path to conventional publication begins with the literary agent in almost all circumstances. That accommodation is not an accident. Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All literary agents will have their own submission guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Query only agencies accepting submissions in your genre and target specific agents within each agency. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested, they will not read it. When the time comes, manuscripts are sent loose-leaf, unbound by request. Manuscript mailing boxes can be purchased online. Again, hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. Remember, you cannot edit your own work, you must hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow their submission guidelines.

4. Dealing with agents is a disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of them, when in fact it is the other way around. Keep that fact in mind. Use the considerable resources of the Internet to find agents interested in your genre. Do not rely on print lists of agents. The game will have changed before you receive the list. Many agents will require an exclusive submission, unnecessarily extending the period of angst for the author. Many others do not; focus on them. These days they are looking for contentious subjects or manuscripts written by known authors, never mind whether or not they can write. If you find a literary agent, your relationship will be contractual. Do nothing with anyone without a contract. Fully understand your part of the contract before signing or hire an attorney versed in literary contracts to help you understand. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my genre only to find that there are not any in existence.

5. If you are fortunate enough to become a published author through the literary agent/publisher/reader sequence of progression, congratulations, you have hit the big time. Your publisher will handle all the details of composition/format, cover design, printing/binding, fulfillment/marketing, and warehouse/distribution, leaving you free to crank out books. You will have little or no input regarding any of the production aspects of your book, nor will you retain any rights other than copyright. The publisher will own the ISBN and all future negotiations for anything concerning that work will be through, or with the permission of the publisher.

The road to publication has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbies, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Believe nobody; get everything in writing; and, research, research, research.

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/

©2010 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved
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Dig to begin at royal Viking estate

March, 10 2011

Views and News from Norway

The largest archaeological project in Norway in nearly 10 years will begin in June to recover property of the Viking king Harald Harfagre (alternatively known as "Harald Fairhair," "Harald Finehair" or, simply, "Harald I"). He was, at any rate, the first king of Norway.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the work will be taking place in Avaldsnes, Karmøy (southwest Norway), at a site believed to be part of Fairhair's royal estate. The research project, led by Oslo's Cultural History Museum in cooperation with its counterpart museum in Stavanger, will run from mid-June to mid-September and look to exhume about 11,000 square meters in the area this year, before completing the project in 2012.

Harald Fairhair is credited by many with uniting, through conquests and alliances, the various smaller princedoms into something resembling the modern kingdom of Norway. He is believed to have reigned from 872AD until his death in 932AD.

There is considerable historical debate over which areas he controlled, either directly or indirectly, and many point out that there were large parts of the existing country that lay outside of his kingdom.

The name "Fairhair" originates from a legend that suggests that Harald vowed not to cut his hair until he was king of all of Norway, after being originally rejected by his eventual queen Gyda Eiriksdottir, who wanted him to have more power before they married.

Other digs, too

Alongside the project to uncover the remains of Harald I, there are a series of other digs set to go ahead across southwestern and southern Norway.

Research will be conducted as part of motorway works in Vestfold related to a number of eras in human history, with the majority looking at the various stages of the Stone Age, especially the middle and late Mesolithic period. The Cultural History Museum hopes the work will reveal more about the development of stone age dwellings in the region.

More work will also be undertaken in Gudbrandsdalen in Oppland County before the building of a new motorway between Ringebu and Otta. It will focus on Iron Age settlements, and coal or whaling pits from the Iron and Middle Ages.

Yet more archaeological projects will take place in Hovden in the mountains of Aust-Agder and at Tyinkrysset, Oppland County before the building of new holiday homes, and will look for evidence of iron production.
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Want to be a Writer?

Writing is a learned craft. In order to learn to write, you must write. Eventually the classes must be set aside; set a daily work schedule and stick to it. That is not to say you should stop taking classes altogether; learning is a lifetime experience. Sooner or later though, you must take the plunge and go at it on your own.

Have a story to tell, one that you like. Then sit down and get busy. Have your work professionally edited: rewrite, edit, rewrite, until you've gotten it as good as it can be. That's all there is to being a writer.

Take a look at my website to see how I accomplish the task of writing about my passion, the people of Viking Greenland.
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Axe of Iron: Confrontation by J. A. Hunsinger -- Book Review

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Axe of Iron: Confrontation by J. A. Hunsinger -- Book Review

The epic saga of the Northmen continues in Axe of Iron: Confrontation by J.A. Hunsinger.

The second book in the Axe of Iron series picks up where the first book, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, left us. It is the late summer of 1008, and while the settlement at Halfdansfjord is flourishing, the uncounted numbers of indigenous peoples--the Naskapi, Anishinabeg, and Haudenosaunee Indians--have violently resisted the arrival of these pale-skinned invaders.

An ill-fated hunting trip, a blending of cultures, friendship with a tribe of Naskapi, the capture and eventual acceptance of a young boy of the Northmen by his Haudenosaunee captors, and an event that seems destined by the gods, leave the Northmen's fate hanging in the balance.

Can their developing relationship with the native tribes pave the way for the Northmen to survive in Vinland?

As with Axe of Iron: The Settlers--which we reviewed here--Hunsinger uses his wealth of knowledge and years of study to bring the Northmen and their adventures to life. Halfdan Ingolfsson and his second in command, Gudbjartur Einarsson, continue to lead the settlers in Halfdansfjord to what they hope is a prosperous life in Vinland.

Readers, who will recognize many of the names and characters from the first novel, are treated to watching these people develop and change as they meet the challenges of their lives in this new place; a place that is filled with hope and danger.

In Confrontation, we begin to see the blending of cultures as Thora of the Northmen marries Deskaheh the Haudenosaunee, who had once been captured by the Northmen, but who is now considered a member of their tribe. While Halfdan and Gudbjartur hope commitments such as these will allow the indiginous tribes and Northmen to better understand each other, they cannot let their guard down for a single moment. Hunsinger captures well, the dangerous situation in which the Northmen find themselves on a daily basis.

The Foreword provides important information for the reader, in addition to sharing a brief synopsis of what happened in Axe of Iron: The Settlers. Also included is a Glossary of Norse and Native Terminology to define terms that readers might find unfamiliar.

I found that as soon as I finished Confrontation, I was eager to continue reading the story of the Northmen. Luckily, Hunsinger also includes a short excerpt of the next Axe of Iron novel, Assimilation, which appears to be just as exciting as the previous two installments.

Readers of historical fiction are sure to be drawn in by this sweeping epic of the Northmen.

Title: Axe of Iron: Confrontation

Author: J.A. Hunsinger

Publisher: Vinland Publishing

ISBN-10: 0980160154

ISBN-13: 978-0980160154

SRP: $16.95

Note: This blogger was paid to copy edit this manuscript. No payment was received to provide a review of the book.

Posted by Cheryl at 1:53 PM

Labels: Axe of Iron: Confrontation, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, book reviews, historical fiction, J.A. Hunsinger, Norse history, Viking history
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Axe of Iron: Confrontation

CONFRONTATION, An AXE OF IRON Novel
This second novel of the Axe of Iron series will be printed on Monday, 22February2010, and will then be available ONLY from AtlasBooks, the distributor. Amazon will follow shortly thereafter. The general book trade will have the book available after 1July2010, the publication date.
***
In Confrontation, two calamitous events occur that pave the way for the hostile beginnings of an assimilation process between the Greenland Norse settlers and the natives of Vinland. The first mixing of cultures occurs when a woman of the Northmen, Thora, and Deskaheh the Haudenosaunee, marry. This union, accepted enthusiastically by the Northmen, opens a window into the native mind.

For all the people of this land the way is rocky and fraught with danger at every turn, but the acceptance and friendship that develops between the Northmen and the Naskapi, another native tribe, over an affair of honor, the eventual acceptance of a young boy of the Northmen by his Haudenosaunee captors, and a scenario that seems ordained by the will of the gods, makes it all begin to fall into place, as it must for the Northmen to survive.

Will this developing relationship allow the Northmen to remain in the homeland of the Naskapi, or are they doomed to failure? The settlers must deal with that question on a daily basis.

Standing in their way are uncounted numbers of indigenous peoples, the pre-historical ancestors of the contemporary Cree (Naskapi), Ojibwa (Anishinabeg), and Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Indians. From the outset, the warriors of these various tribes violently resisted the incursion of the tall, pale-skinned invaders. The overwhelming numbers of the native peoples in Vinland hold the fate of the Northmen in their hands. The success or failure of the settlement at Halfdansfjord hangs in the balance.
Comments (1)

Historically Speaking

History may be defined as “a chronological record of significant events, often with an explanation of their causes.” 2000 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated

An historical event is often quoted on the evening news as a basis of comparison for current events, or to reinforce a pundit’s opinion. The fabric of our daily lives is frequently held up against the backdrop of history, to give credibility—the ring of truth. But how much of what we accept as historical fact actually ever happened as we have always thought, or been taught? Not much, in my opinion. “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” Napoleon Bonaparte

Contemporary events are often manipulated to make a political point. Ask yourself, are we Americans, or the citizens of any country for that matter, going to willfully enter information into the permanent historical record that will harm the world’s perception of our country? We, the common citizen won’t, but we have little opportunity to be a player in historical events, rather we are bystanders. But we see our elected representatives do so daily. Why? To further a political agenda that has been proven to be at odds with the desires of the majority of the electorate. We see this penchant to make history, to manipulate history, in play every day on the national news. When today’s events are recorded you may rest assured that they will not reflect what really occurred; the record will show a manipulated opinion to reflect the ideology of the time. It has always been so. Why, there are those who steadfastly maintain that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. He in fact did not, nor did he ever set foot on the American continent. He was preceded by Leif Eiriksson by some 500-years and Leif may not have been the first, either. We will never know for certain.

I write novels about the medieval Greenland Norse people. Little substantiated information exists about them, because they wrote nothing down. Except for some facility with the runic alphabet of the time, I think they were illiterate. There are many historical gaps where I can portray daily events with fiction, i.e. - my own opinion of the unknown aspects of their history. Some of their history was recorded in sagas as long as 200-years after the events they portray, by writers who knew nothing about the subject people; the tales they tell are hearsay, folklore if you will. Although the sagas do give us a sense of the life of the times in which they were written the stories themselves cannot be verified.

All of history has been written by the bystanders. “The men who make history have not time to write it.” Metternich
It is human nature to embellish facts to increase individual participation or to reinforce opinion. I am doing that with this article. Memoirs written long after the events they portray are also a case in point. Embellishment is not dishonest, exactly, unless it is a lie and there are lots of those. Two generations of the youth of the major combatants of World War II have not been taught of the actual parts their country’s played in the conflict—the facts have been intentionally distorted. It is more palatable that way; ignorance is bliss, so to speak.

This brings me to archaeology. While archaeology has provided many windows into ancient civilizations and much terrific work has been, and continues to be done in the field, an overactive imagination is a prerequisite for success. Granted I am a layman, but I have had more than a passing association with the discipline through my years of research on the Viking Age and specifically the Greenland Norse people. Archaeology can, and has built entire civilizations on piles of rocks and scattered ruins, even to the point that the daily dress and thought processes of the ancient peoples are detailed—all of this in the absence of a single corroborating written word from the antecedents. These flights of fancy continue to the present day. The accepted dogma becomes so sacrosanct that to dare to make mention of a differing opinion will ensure the end of one’s career. Since I am not constrained by such, I am not cowed in any fashion.

Greenland was settled by the Norse during the height of the Medieval Warm Period and gradually abandoned during the next natural climate cycle, the Mini-Ice Age. William W. Fitzhugh, Vikings The North Atlantic Saga (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 2000) 330.
The medieval Norse settlers of Greenland disappeared from history after about 400 odd years. They went somewhere, leaving little behind, no ships, tools, and more importantly, no bodies. Those are the facts of the matter. Nobody knows what happened to them, not even the archaeologists. Nobody is even certain when the settlers disappeared. Many of us who are interested believe that they gradually assimilated with the natives of North America and the Arctic. Ellesmere - Vikings in the Far North, Peter Schledermann, 1977-1980. Vikings, The North Atlantic Saga, William Fitzhugh and Elizabeth Ward, (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, 2000)248-256.

I believe that the Mini-Ice Age prompted mass human migration on a vast scale that altered population locations of many of the indigenous people in the Arctic and on the North American continent. As the winter weather worsened the natives in the northern climes followed the animals on which they subsisted, they had no choice. This mass migration theory has been largely ignored because it is impossible to prove. Native language groups are the only certain indicator of homogenous relationships—a common origin. One such example would be the Athapaskan, or Athabaskan linguistic group, with origins in eastern Canada. The Navajo and Apache Indians of the American southwest belong to this group. The inference here should be obvious to all but the most obtuse individual—one who accepts without question the associated dogma of conventional archaeology. With the end of the Mini-Ice Age sometime in the 18th century, many of the northern dwelling indigenous peoples had been displaced from their ancestral homelands by a natural climate change cycle, some for generations, others forever.

“History is nothing but a pack of tricks that we play upon the dead.” Voltaire
And so, historically speaking, the Greenland Norse people did not disappear, they are still here. Over the past 1000-years their progeny became so mixed and commingled with the pre-historical ancestors of the North American Indians as to become invisible.

***

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2010 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved
Comments

Historical Perspective of the Greenland Vikings(3)

3 - Had the Northmen been more amicable toward the people they initially contacted, a very different early history for North America might have resulted. Instead, the sagas tell us they cheated in trade, killed the natives indiscriminately, and eventually had them so incensed that a state of war existed, making all attempts at settlement impossible. At least that is the presently accepted theory among academics.

By today’s standards, the Northmen were a cruel and savage nationality. The Dark Ages, in which they existed and became a force with which to be reckoned, was a period of eight hundred years of almost continuous warfare. The Northmen were some of the most accomplished warriors of that violent time.

The native tribes they came in contact with seemed to tolerate their presence better when the Northmen came only to trade. Any attempt at permanent settlement - Hop, Straumfjord, and Leifsbudir - always led to violent confrontation.

This situation only existed initially. We know nothing about the remainder of the four hundred years of association between the Northmen and the people we now collectively refer to as Indians. And there most certainly was an association.

Greenlanders referred to the indigenous people of North America as Skraelings, generally thought to be an epithet, but the meaning is not known. We do not know whether Skraeling is a reference to the Tornit (pronounced Dornit) they contacted initially, the Inuit (Eskimo) who followed the Tornit later in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, or includes all the indigenous people they contacted.

Some believe that the Northmen interbred with the Inuit of Baffin Island and other groups of people in the far north, as tall, fair-skinned Inuit were reported by the next influx of explorers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This is not a fanciful contention at all when consideration is given to the fact that women were always in short supply. The lack of sufficient females caused many fights and blood feuds among the Northmen.

Farther south the Northmen contacted ancestors of several other Indian tribes. At some point approximately one thousand years ago the ancestors of Indian tribes we now identify as belonging to the Algonquian and Iroquoian language groups, e.g., Ojibwa, Cree, Huron, Mohawk, Iroquois, etc, began to emerge. Various tribal bands of these people occupied all the land from Hudson Bay, south to Lake Superior, and east to the Canadian Maritimes, the area in which this story takes place. They fought over the hunting grounds and ancestral lands annually, alternately claiming or losing lands as ongoing warfare involved subsequent generations.

We do not know what they called themselves one thousand years ago. It is believed by some that they referred to themselves simply as the People. Most still have a name in their language that translates to the People. I have endeavored to use their names for themselves, if we know it, or a diminutive of that name, throughout this novel.

The two known Norse Greenland colonies prospered into the late fifteenth century. The population eventually swelled to as many as four thousand people at any given time, spread among farms in the areas around these settlements.

At some point late in the fourteenth or early in the fifteenth century, all settlement attempts and trading voyages to Greenland from Iceland and other points to the east were abandoned. Sometime in the middle of the fourteenth century (Western Settlement), and just after the turn of the fifteenth century (Eastern Settlement), the Greenland populations disappeared without a trace.

Perhaps most of the inhabitants of the Greenland settlements had already moved west having migrated to successful settlements already established by other Northmen with the native populations of North America over the ensuing years.

In any case, I maintain they eventually gave up the sea. Like thousands of their compatriots in Europe, they settled ashore. All impetus and desire for undertaking the perilous voyages became a thing of the distant past.

Around 1450, winters became colder in the far north, a lot colder. The ice in the harbors and fjords began remaining well into summer, and then it just remained. Greenland became uninhabitable for the Northmen. The Medieval Warm Period ended. A mini–ice age gripped the Arctic and northern portions of North America for the next four hundred years, into the last half of the nineteenth century.

During the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, a Catholic Prelate voyaged to Greenland, ostensibly to check on his flock. Although a few domestic animals grazed the hillsides, he found no people, living or dead. No ships, supplies, or tools remained. The people and their possessions had simply vanished into the mists of time.

The Icelandic bishop Gisli Oddsson, quoting church records, stated in the sixteenth or seventeenth century (the exact date is unknown) that the Norse Greenlanders joined the natives of America in 1342, giving up Christianity in the process. The record notes a firm date for the migration, not sometime in the fourteenth century.

We know three things for certain if one considers the disappearance of these people objectively: They did not sail to Iceland or Europe; they did not remain on Greenland until they died of hunger or exposure; they did not simply disappear. No, they had been migrating slowly to North America for five hundred years. Assimilation with the indigenous peoples became, over time, the Norse Greenlanders’ only option for survival. It is the only logical answer to the one-thousand-year-old mystery.

Since their assimilation, almost everything the Northmen left behind on this continent has turned to dust, become locked under the permafrost, or disappeared under many feet of debris in the forests and along the seashores of North America.

I have attempted to tell a tale of what might have happened, what could have happened, and considering the options available, what probably did happen to the Norse Greenlanders.

More than 40–generations have elapsed since they came to this continent. Now their very existence, everything they accomplished, has faded from the collective memory of all the peoples they contacted and lived among.

I prefer to believe the four thousand live on however, their genetic makeup diluted by the intervening centuries of time. They are still here, smiling back at us from the faces of the Inuit Greenlanders, Cree, Ojibwa, and Iroquois with whom they joined so long ago.

***
This third installment ends the serialization of the Historical Perspective of the Greenland Vikings that appeared in the first book of Axe of Iron series, The Settlers. The original text with copious endnotes may be viewed on my website  under the Free Stuff button, for those readers with a scholarly interest in this topic.
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Historical Perspective of the Greenland Vikings (2)

The second installment follows:

2 - Leif Eiriksson wrote nothing down; we do not know what he called the settlement he constructed on Newfoundland. The sagas refer to the site as Leifsbudir, or Leif’s Booths.

The Norwegian Helge Ingstad, and his wife, Dr. Anne Stine Ingstad, an archeologist, discovered and excavated Leifsbudir between 1961 and 1968.

This momentous but oft–ignored discovery proves that Northmen were the first Europeans on the North American continent. They regularly sailed from Greenland to North America, Iceland, and Norway for more than four hundred years before Columbus was born.

Between 997 and 1002, Leif and his men completed construction of the houses and support buildings of Leifsbudir, at the head of the small bay where he landed. The buildings were not temporary huts, but permanent all-weather structures.

According to the Norse sagas, Leifsbudir was one of at least three permanent settlements built and utilized by Greenlanders and Icelanders. The other settlements referred to in the sagas, Hop (meaning tide pools), and Straumfjord (meaning stream fjord), have never been located.

Greenlanders used three place names, attributable to Leif Eiriksson, to describe areas where they landed: Helluland (Flat Stone Land) believed to be Baffin Island; Markland (Wood Land) most likely heavily wooded Labrador; and Vinland meaning and exact location unknown—a general area, not a specific place.

Given the Northmen’s propensity for exploration, as well as the need to constantly find new hunting grounds, it is safe to assume they also explored much of the northeastern coast of North America and made forays into the interior. Like the natives they encountered, they hunted and traded. Their simple lifestyle left no sign of their passage.

Norse artifacts have been found on the south shore of Ungava Bay in Hudson Strait, the western and eastern shores of Hudson Bay itself, Baffin Island, Labrador, Newfoundland Island, and many other sites in the Canadian North. A Norse penny recently turned up in Maine, and a rune stone was unearthed in Minnesota during the latter portion of the nineteenth century.

Norse artifacts have been found as far inland as the state of Oklahoma. With the exception of the Norse penny found in Maine, archeologists continue to disagree about the authenticity of all other Norse artifacts discovered in the United States.

The Norse Greenlanders, primarily livestock farmers and hunters, were also warriors by nature and necessity and fully capable of defending themselves against all comers. The indigenous people they encountered as they explored were numerically superior. Weaponry was similar enough that the outcome of protracted armed conflict tended not to favor the Northmen.

Not surprisingly, the natives were friendly and anxious to trade in the beginning. After all, they had no reason to dislike their Norse visitors; they had never seen one before.

To be continued...
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Historical Perspective of the Greenland Vikings

In response to requests for in-depth background information on the medieval Norse settlers of Greenland to support my contentions about their disappearance from history, I am serializing the Historical Perspective of The Settlers, the first book of the Axe of Iron series. Segments will follow weekly over a three week period. Here is the first installment.
***
1 - Axe of Iron: The Settlers, the first book of the Axe of Iron series, is a tale of the Northmen, or Vikings, who journeyed across the North Atlantic Ocean from Iceland during the latter half of the tenth century to explore and settle portions of Greenland and North America. I have followed history insofar as is known; however, the extent of the Northmen’s exploration of North America, a land they referred to as Vinland, is unknown.


It happened so long ago scholars cannot agree on what the word Vinland means. Nor do they agree on where it is, but more on that later.

The Northmen did not leave their home country because of wanderlust, although a quest for land probably played a part. It may also have been a result of the still common practice of deeding settled farmland to the firstborn son, leaving younger sons no option but to settle elsewhere.

In order to understand these Northmen and the indigenous peoples they contacted in their quest for a new homeland, I offer the following to give perspective to the reader of a time, more than one thousand years ago; in this land we now call North America.

We know that Northmen not only reached North America between 997 and 1003, they regularly sailed back and forth from Greenland to North America, Iceland, Norway, and perhaps other northern European destinations for about five hundred years.

The term Norse, or Norsk, is used to describe all peoples of Scandinavian origin, e.g. Swedish, Danish (including Greenland and the Faeroe Islands), Norwegian, Icelandic, and the Orkney and Shetland islanders. Norse is also a reference to their common language—for in those days they all spoke the same language—and to differentiate them from other Germanic peoples.

For the purpose of this story, reference will be made to both Northmen and Norsemen in a general and interchangeable sense. They were no longer Vikings, and I will not refer to them as such. When they sailed across the Atlantic, they became something else entirely.

The Medieval Warm Period, between the ninth and fourteenth centuries, made these voyages possible. Benevolent weather allowed them first to settle Greenland and later to reach and explore unknown portions of North America. The weather was considerably warmer during this period than it is today in North America and Greenland.

The Northmen, under Eirik Thorvaldsson (Eirik the Red) colonized Greenland. Their sheep, goats, cattle, and horses grazed the lush green pastures while they traded in walrus hides and ivory with their European homeland. However, the fragile environment soon became overgrazed and could not support their domestic animals in viable numbers, forcing a gradual shift from an agrarian to a hunter-gatherer society, as the contents of their middens indicate. Wild game was plentiful during the early years, but after a time, the hunting moved farther and farther afield as yak and caribou herds were depleted. Finally no game remained except a few ring seals.

It is particularly important for the reader to be aware that not a single document originating in Greenland exists. The Norse Greenlanders may have been illiterate for the most part. Everything about their personal history is conjecture because none of it comes to us from the source, they themselves. The runic alphabet they employed did not lend itself to lengthy dissertation.

Everything about the five-hundred-year history of the two main Greenland settlements comes to us from sources with no vested interest in telling the true story of these hardy people. In all cases, the information was compiled as long as two hundred years after the fact by saga writers who had never been to Greenland.

The man responsible for centuries of misconceptions, Adam of Bremen, a German cleric of the eleventh century, wrote a four-volume treatise on the Vikings. Volume IV deals specifically with Greenland and Vinland. It is his reference to “the profusion of grapes and self-sown wheat” found in Vinland that has perpetuated the myth of grapes and grain to the present day. In fact, grapes have never grown north of the forty-fifth parallel—Nova Scotia and Maine—at any time in history, and the wet weather of the Canadian Maritimes will not support the growth of wheat.

The Norse Greenlanders were not wine drinkers so grapes would have been of little importance to them. Their preferred alcoholic beverages were beer, when barley and hops were available, and mead, made from honey and water.

The Norse word vin, the root of Vinland, is incorrectly associated with grapes. It means pasture or meadow in Old Norse, hence literally Pastureland. Norway and Sweden have many place names where the word vin is used as either a root syllable or as a suffix, e.g., Vinje, Vinnan, Granvin, etc. Invariably the meaning is associated with pasture or meadow, not wine, as was the case with Vinland when Leif Eiriksson named it more than one thousand years ago.

The Greenland saga, the real one, began sometime between 982 and 984. In reality it bore little resemblance to the Groenlendinga Saga written long afterwards. Eirik the Red, exiled from Iceland because of continuing trouble, and his eldest son, Leif, explored the western coastline of Greenland sometime between 982 and 984.

They remained for at least one winter—presumably hauling their ship from the water before freeze up and constructing winter quarters—before continuing their exploration during the following spring and summer. They finally chose two suitable fjords on the southwestern coast, some four hundred miles apart. These sites were to become the Eastern and Western Settlements.

They set sail for Iceland during the summer of 985, planning to gather settlers, ships, livestock, and equipment. Eirik called the new empty land Greenland, making no reference to the vast ice sheet covering most of the island, to induce people to come back with them.

The strategy worked, and in the spring of 986, a fleet of twenty five ships sailed for Greenland. Fourteen of the ships made it to Eiriksfjord, the southernmost of the two settlement sites selected. Of the remaining eleven ships, a few made it back to Iceland; the fate of the others is unknown.

Later that same summer, Bjarni Herjulfsson of Iceland, while sailing to the newly established settlement in Greenland to visit his father who recently arrived with the rest of the settlers, was storm-driven far off course and sighted unknown land to the west. His sightings were probably Labrador and Baffin Island; however, he did not land, continuing instead to Greenland, a decision decried by his crew and the Greenland settlers.

The Norse knew about North America for at least fourteen years before exploration began, or that is what the sagas tell us. The sagas also tell us that Leif Eiriksson purchased Herjulfsson’s ship and, with a crew of thirty five men, set sail for North America sometime between 997 and 1002. Many do not believe that avid explorers such as the Northmen were content to wait fourteen years before someone checked into Herjulfsson’s discovery.

With life spans averaging forty odd years, fourteen years would make the difference between a young man and an old man. And exploration was definitely for the young. I doubt they waited.

I believe these people mounted other expeditions almost immediately after Herjulfsson told them what lay to the west. They were famous for being impulsive, and they were inveterate explorers. Curiosity alone would guarantee they did not linger fourteen years before setting off into the unknown.

The sagas tell us Leif Eiriksson landed on both Baffin Island and Labrador before finding what he sought, a land of bountiful timber and pasture for livestock near the northeastern tip of Newfoundland Island. Nobody knows what Leif called Newfoundland Island. Nor is it known whether he called the new land Vinland.

To be continued...
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Greenland Vikings—Historical Perspective

With the publication of the second book in the Axe of Iron series, Confrontation, I thought it prudent to offer the reader some historical background for the people that I write about, the medieval Greenland Norse, or Vikings if you prefer.

The Medieval Warm Period, between the ninth and fourteenth centuries, made their voyages possible. Benevolent weather allowed them first to settle Greenland and later to reach and explore unknown portions of North America. The weather was considerably warmer during this period than it is today in North America and Greenland.

The Northmen, under Eirik Thorvaldsson (Eirik the Red) colonized Greenland. Their sheep, goats, cattle, and horses grazed the lush green pastures while they traded in walrus hides and ivory with their European homeland. However, the fragile environment soon became overgrazed and could not support their domestic animals in viable numbers, forcing a gradual shift from an agrarian to a hunter-gatherer society, as the contents of their middens indicate. Wild game was plentiful during the early years, but after a time, the hunting moved farther and farther afield as yak and caribou herds were depleted. Finally no game remained except a few ring seals.

It is particularly important for the reader to be aware that not a single document originating in Greenland exists. The Norse Greenlanders may have been illiterate for the most part. Everything about their personal history is conjecture because none of it comes to us from the source, they themselves. The runic alphabet they employed did not lend itself to lengthy dissertation.

Everything about the five-hundred-year history of the two main Greenland settlements comes to us from sources with no vested interest in telling the true story of these hardy people. In all cases, the information was compiled as long as two hundred years after the fact by saga writers who had never been to Greenland.

For the rest of the story, read my Axe of Iron series of historical fiction books, for therein you will find plausible answers to the most enduring mystery of the western hemisphere:


For the complete text, with endnotes, see Historical Perspective in the first novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers.
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Axe of Iron: Confrontation--Progress Report

At this point it looks like mid-February or early March for the release date. CONFRONTATION will be available from the distributor, AtlasBooks only, at that time.

The publication date for the general trade booksellers will be six months later, or about July 2010.
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Axe of Iron: Confrontation

The second book of the Axe of Iron series, Confrontation, is in the publication process now. Initial release through my distributor, AtlasBooks, is scheduled to be in January 2010.



The storyline:

In Confrontation, two calamitous events occur that pave the way for the hostile beginnings of an assimilation process between the Greenland Norse settlers and the natives of Vinland. The first mixing of cultures occurs when a woman of the Northmen, Thora, and Deskaheh the Haudenosaunee, marry. This union, accepted enthusiastically by the Northmen, opens a window into the native mind.

For all the people of this land the way is rocky and fraught with danger at every turn, but the acceptance and friendship that develops between the Northmen and the Naskapi, another native tribe, over an affair of honor, the eventual acceptance of a young boy of the Northmen by his Haudenosaunee captors, and a scenario that seems ordained by the will of the gods, makes it all begin to fall into place, as it must for the Northmen to survive.

Will this developing relationship allow the Northmen to remain in the homeland of the Naskapi, or are they doomed to failure? The settlers must deal with that question on a daily basis.

Standing in their way are uncounted numbers of indigenous peoples, the pre-historical ancestors of the contemporary Cree (Naskapi), Ojibwa (Anishinabeg), and Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Indians. From the outset, the warriors of these various tribes violently resisted the incursion of the tall, pale-skinned invaders. The overwhelming numbers of the native peoples in Vinland hold the fate of the Northmen in their hands. The success or failure of the settlement at Halfdansfjord hangs in the balance.
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Books In Sync Author Spotlight Interview

Take a moment to read the Books In Sync Author Spotlight Interview of author J. A. Hunsinger.

This comprehensive interview covers his historical fiction books about the Greenland Norse people, their assimilation with the pre-historical natives of Canada and the USA, his views on writing, and tips on what writers might want to avoid.

A lot of information is disseminated in the interview and on this terrific site for writers and readers.
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Why the Interest in the Vikings?

I have had a lifelong infatuation with the Vikings of medieval Greenland. After reading everything available, one is left with a nagging question. What happened to them? It is difficult to study them because they wrote nothing down. Everything we know comes from archaeological research and the Norse sagas. The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga both tell stories about them, although centuries after the fact, but we know nothing about the people themselves. I decided to tell their tale using fiction because I wanted to convey to my readers what a lifetime of research has led me to believe regarding the abandonment of the two known Norse settlements on Greenland and the disappearance from history of every single settler. Nobody ever saw them again and nobody knows to this day, what happened to them. In spinning my Axe of Iron series of tales, I give my characters personalities, to make them as we are. No other author has ever told their story as I do.

One of my book reviewers, Melissa Levine, IP Book Reviewers had this to say: 'It’s the details that grab the reader’s attention in J. A. Hunsinger’s historical novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers. The book is the first installment in a planned series of stories about the migration of the Greenland Norse to North America. From the introduction, which provides background information, to the brutal ending, Hunsinger uses his extensive knowledge of the history and culture of Norsemen to craft a story that exposes the lives of an ancient people with an admirable sense of adventure and value for community.Hunsinger teaches with the details that he infuses into this story. The reader will learn what the Norsemen ate; how they set-up temporary camps and permanent residence; how they conducted themselves in battle; and the manner in which men and women fell into intimate relationships. The importance of respect and loyalty in the culture is represented by the relationship between Halfdan and Gudbj. Their bond that is stronger than that often seen between blood brothers. There is an intense trust between them that provides the level of security needed to lead their followers while exploring a new land, surviving severe storms at sea, and battling against natives. The love and admiration between the two men is so overwhelming it frequently makes Gudbj uncomfortable. But their feelings for each other do not diminish them as men. Halfdan and Gudbj are so secure in their masculinity that they are not intimidated by the strength of their women who work as hard and love as strongly as they do. Axe of Iron: The Settlers is a hearty, adventure-packed history lesson. I highly recommend it.'

I am pleased with her assessment of my tale. The saga continues with Axe of Iron: Confrontation. The second book of the continuing tale of the Greenland Norse people and their adventures in North America will be published in December 2009.
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Medievalists Review of Axe of Iron: The Settlers

The latest review of the historical fiction novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, may be seen on the Medievalists website.

Axe of Iron: The Settlers is the first book of the continuing Axe of Iron series of tales about a medieval people whose lives are surprisingly like ours. They have the same basic desires for happiness, love, food, and shelter that has dominated the thoughts of generations of cultures the world over. These character-driven, historical fiction books tell of the adventures of Greenland Vikings as they struggle to establish a settlement in North America in the face of hostile native opposition.
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Newspaper Article For Writers

The Chicago Sun-Times article on author J. A. Hunsinger, his Axe of Iron series of novels about the medieval Greenland Viking's assimilation with the pre-historical Indians of Vinland, and details of many of the issues facing today's authors on their road to publication.



This fact-filled article is based on an interview by Dorothy Thompson of PumpUpYourBook Promotion.



Can't hurt, might help. Take a look for yourself.
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AtlasBooks Interview of Author J. A. Hunsinger

If you are interested in the Axe of Iron series of historical fiction novels about the Greenland Vikings - you must be or you would not be reading this - the title link interview will answer questions that you may have about the premise behind my books on the subject.



My book distributor, AtlasBooks, Ashland, OH wrote this interview in January 2009. Granted that was some time ago, but the content of the interview is one of the best coverages that has been done to date.



Unanswered questions about my books may also be directed to me personally.
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The Story Behind the Book

In 986 about five hundred medieval Norse people settled the island of Greenland. Over the five hundred year history of the two known settlements on the island’s southwestern coast the population increased to as many as four thousand people. We know little about the people or their settlements because they wrote nothing down for posterity. All we know about them comes to us from the Greenland Saga and the Saga of Eirik the Red, both written about two centuries after the facts they pretend to convey. In about the mid-fifteenth century they abandoned their last remaining settlement, Eiriksfjord. Wherever they went, they took their ships, tools, and every useful item they possessed. Nobody knows their destination for they left not a clue. Their disappearance is the premise for my Axe of Iron series.

Axe of Iron: The Settlers is a character-driven, historical fiction novel, the first of a five book continuing series about the Greenland Norse people. The series tells a fictional tale about what I believe happened to them based on my extensive research over the years. Although the people I write about share the Viking heritage with their European counterparts, when they sailed to Greenland and North America in the tenth and eleventh centuries they were no longer Vikings in the strict sense of the word and I do not refer to them as such.

The unknown aspects of their disappearance gives me the opportunity to use fiction to tell a tale about them that answers many of the questions about certain North American Indian tribes who exhibited characteristics, customs, and mannerisms that early explorers—eighteenth century—attributed to pre-historical European contact. The dates when these facts came to light reinforce my contention that the European contact alluded to could only have been the Greenland Norse people. My series will deal, in a fictional sense, with why tribal members of some pre-historical Indian tribes looked like white people, had customs like white people—including religious beliefs—were completely different from other tribes encountered, and welcomed the earliest white explorers with open arms.

The Greenland Norse did not disappear; they assimilated with the pre-historical North American Indians that they encountered. I believe this assimilation process was well underway by the early years of the eleventh century in the Canadian Arctic and moved south as the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the onslaught of the Mini-Ice Age. This natural climate cycle caused native peoples— including the last holdouts of Greenland Norse people remaining in Eiriksfjord—to migrate with the animals on which they subsisted.

Conventional brick and mortar archaeologists have largely ignored this controversial aspect of our pre-historical past. The path to discovery remains blurred by the passage of one thousand years of time. There are no ruins or pyramids to create entire cultures around, and few artifacts to discover. The presence of the Greenland Norse people on this continent is but an echo from the dim past, but it is here nonetheless.

Scientists have found Norse DNA in Greenland and Baffin Island Inuit people. If somebody will look, perhaps Norse DNA will be found in members of contemporary Indian tribes in northeastern and north central North America. Only then will we know their fate.

***

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2009 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved
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A Few Things I’ve Learned About Writing/Publishing

The road to publication has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbie’s, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Believe nobody, and get everything in writing, research, research, and research. Even then, you will have picked the worst time in the world’s economy to enter the business.

Dealing with agents is the most disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of agents, when in fact it is the other way around. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my area of my genre only to find that there are not any in existence. So no, I have no need for an agent. Having said all of that, though, clearing the air so to speak, I do have a few suggestions if you are interested.

Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All literary agents will have their own guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested. Hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. An English teacher is not an editor and you cannot edit your own work, so hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow the submission guidelines.

Okay, it is time to consider your mission—to get published. I will assume that your manuscript is a first draft. Before you can send out query letters telling the world of the birth of the great American novel, your work needs editing. I do not mean having a friend, an English teacher, your boss, or any other layman read your manuscript, no, I mean that you must engage the services of a professional editor. Thus begins the process of polishing your manuscript until it is the best it can be. This process can involve numerous corrections and rewrites. The time and expense involved varies with the quality of the work. One hundred thousand words will cost in the neighborhood of $2000.00, or more, by the time you get it right.

Believe it or not, writing your book is only the beginning. With a final draft of your manuscript in hand, it is time to query. Famous people query with a proposal before writing the book. I will assume that you are not yet famous. As an author, you cannot deal directly with one of the large publishing houses, so your next challenge is to interest a literary agent in your work. If you find a literary agent, your relationship will be contractual. Do nothing with anyone without a contract. Fully understand your part of the contract before signing or hire an attorney versed in literary contracts to help you understand. There are numerous listings of literary agents on the Internet. Research each agent for their submission guidelines, select those receptive to your genre, be certain that they are accepting submissions, submit only what they require, and never send an unsolicited manuscript, they will not read it. Your literary agent will handle your contractual relationship with a publisher; they are your agent acting in your behalf.

If you are fortunate enough to become a published author through the literary agent/publisher/reader sequence of progression, congratulations, you have hit the big time. Your publisher will handle all the details of composition/format, cover design, printing/binding, fulfillment/marketing, and warehouse/distribution, leaving you free to crank out books. You will have little or no input regarding any of the production aspects of your book, nor will you retain any rights other than copyright. The publisher will own the ISBN and all future negotiations for anything concerning that work will be through, or with the permission of, the publisher.

Okay, you have spent a year submitting to literary agents without results. If you have not completely lost interest in publishing your work, you are left with publishing it yourself, e.g. self-publishing or becoming an independent publisher. A self-published author has hired a publishing company to publish a book, surrendering all rights save copyright—this last is negotiable in some instances. An independent publisher has formed a small company and gone through the process from copyright to a finished book ready for the market. That author owns all rights to the book because often the author and the publishing company are one and the same. Books are produced and marketed by an independent publisher working closely with a large full service book production facility such as BookMasters, Ashland, OH, where everything is done in house.

Regardless of the method used to publish your work yourself, you will be responsible for promotion and marketing. In working with an organization such as BookMasters, you will already have a leg up as they handle some of the initial marketing through their own marketing department. Getting the word out before and after the publication date is vital to your sales success. You must have a website and/or a blog that calls attention to your book and ultimately leads a visitor to your order page. If you do not want to handle book sales from your garage, then your website order page will link your customers to your distributor or other points of sale that you have set up. In this way, someone else will take care of the myriad details of the warehousing/distribution of your work.

Solicit professional book reviewers. Do not send them a book until you have queried them first. Be the consummate professional insofar as your contacts with reviewers. Always include a cover letter with your book that includes a short synopsis and your expectations as the author. Reviews are important and they can restore your bruised and battered ego when you read what someone else has to say about your work. Their reviews look good on your website and provide potential customers for your next book a sales closer as they read your book cover’s ad copy.

I have found that conventional print and display advertising on websites is only minimally successful. The mission here is to get your name and that of your book out to as many sites on the Internet as possible. Hire professional people to do this for you, e.g. PumpUpYourBook promotions. Additionally, Amazon is one of the most effective and important book sales tools out there. When you have your book listed with them be sure that you also use their ‘Look Inside the Book’ program. Ditto for Google Book Search. Going through the submission process with Internet book promotion and sales sites is time consuming, but the rewards outweigh this expenditure.

Local booksellers such as Barnes and Noble and Borders do everything possible to arrange and facilitate book-signing events for local authors. So, be certain you contact the individual store’s book manager to set one up for you. They provide a display table and chairs, posters, and a newspaper announcement of the event, and it is all free. In addition, they will order a supply of your books to stock your book-signing. Not a bad deal, I think.

If you do not have letterhead stationery, design some, including the envelope. Remember, you are trying to sell a product, be professional in all of your contacts. Edit religiously, use spell check. Everything that you write is a reflection on you personally, so do it right the first time because the one chance is usually all you will get. And oh, good luck to you.


J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2009 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved
Comments

Book Review - Axe of Iron: The Settlers

The most recent book review of Axe of Iron: The Settlers has been posted on the Medievalists Website.

Read what the Canadian reviewer, Sandra Alvarez thinks of this epic historical fiction novel.
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Suggestions For Querying Literary Agents

It is my hope that the following suggestions, based on my own experience in the world of writer/publisher, will save you from some of the pitfalls you will encounter querying literary agents.
1. The completed first draft of your manuscript begins your odyssey toward publication. Up until now your work has been uniquely personal, something that you have created. Before you can send out query letters telling the world of the birth of the great American novel, your work needs editing. I do not mean having a friend, an English teacher, your boss, or any other nonprofessional read your manuscript; no, I mean that you must engage the services of at least one professional editor, two is better. Thus begins the process of polishing your manuscript until it is the best it can be. This process can involve numerous corrections and rewrites. Do not take it personally; treat the process as a learning experience because that is exactly what it is. The time and expense involved varies with the quality of the work. One hundred thousand words will cost in the neighborhood of $2000.00, or more, by the time you get it right. After all of that effort there will still be errors. The most pervasive and difficult to find are words that sound the same, but have different meanings, e.g. – broach and brooch. The English language is full of such words. I find it easier to correct edits electronically within the Word document rather than by hand with a marked up manuscript. Communication between you and the editor is kept within the document by e-mailing it back and forth. There is less chance of missing necessary changes with the electronic edit and it is easier; edit/rewrite by hand can be a crushing experience for an author. Of course, the choice of methodology is yours to make, just be certain you do not skimp on the capital outlay because this is not the place to save money.
2. Before you begin to query keep professionalism firmly in mind. If you do not have letterhead stationery, design some, including the envelope. Microsoft Publisher makes great looking forms, business cards, and stationery. Remember, you are trying to sell a product, be professional in all of your contacts. Edit religiously, use spell check. Everything that you write is a reflection on you personally, so do it right the first time because the one chance is usually all you will get.
3. As an author, you cannot deal directly with one of the large publishing houses, so your next challenge is to interest a literary agent in your work. Famous people query with a proposal before writing the book. I will assume that you are not yet famous. For you the path to conventional publication begins with the literary agent in almost all circumstances. That accommodation is not an accident. Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All literary agents will have their own submission guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Query only agencies accepting submissions in your genre and target specific agents within each agency. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested, they will not read it. When the time comes, manuscripts are sent loose-leaf, unbound by request. Manuscript mailing boxes can be purchased online. Again, hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. Remember, you cannot edit your own work you must hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow their submission guidelines.
4. Dealing with agents is a disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of them, when in fact it is the other way around. Keep that fact in mind. Use the considerable resources of the Internet to find agents interested in your genre. Do not rely on print lists of agents. The game will have changed before you receive the list. Many agents will require an exclusive submission, unnecessarily extending the period of angst for the author. Many others do not; focus on them. These days they are looking for contentious subjects or manuscripts written by known authors, never mind whether or not they can write. If you find a literary agent, your relationship will be contractual. Do nothing with anyone without a contract. Fully understand your part of the contract before signing or hire an attorney versed in literary contracts to help you understand. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my genre only to find that there are not any in existence.
5. If you are fortunate enough to become a published author through the literary agent/publisher/reader sequence of progression, congratulations, you have hit the big time. Your publisher will handle all the details of composition/format, cover design, printing/binding, fulfillment/marketing, and warehouse/distribution, leaving you free to crank out books. You will have little or no input regarding any of the production aspects of your book, nor will you retain any rights other than copyright. The publisher will own the ISBN and all future negotiations for anything concerning that work will be through, or with the permission of the publisher.The road to publication has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbies, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Believe nobody; get everything in writing; and, research, research, research.
J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, LLC, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/©2009 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved
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