Death on a Longship guest post and giveaway

I’m so pleased to be taking part in the tour for Death on a Longship. I use a viking helmet as an avatar and a viking chick on some other sites. Vikings are super cool bad ass and just plain fascinating. Death on a Longship for sure is one to check out and some lucky person can because there is a giveaway. International even for ebook.  Print US, Canada and UK only.  Check out the great guest post author Marsali Taylor wrote about vikings and  then be sure to enter for the giveaway including some viking jewelry. Good luck to all and thank you to Marsali.

To win a book: leave a comment on this blog post to be entered to win a book (open internationally for ebook or the US, UK, and Canada for a print book). Be sure to leave your email address in the comments so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. This giveaway ends five days after the post goes live.

To win Viking-inspired Jewelry OR a $15 Amazon gift card: Click the link to go to the contest’s website and enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post. A first and second place lucky winner will be selected on October 1st. First place person gets to choose which grand prize he/she wants. The second place person gets the remaining grand prize. Open to every country.

The Vikings are still with us in Shetland, says Marsali Taylor, author of newly-published detective novel Death on a Longship.

The Vikings came to Shetland around 735 AD.  Their usual image is as long-haired maurauders, robbing and killing their way down Britain, but these ones came as settlers, bringing what they thought they would need in this new land – like the Norwegian soapstone bowls that were discovered on a site in Unst, our most northerly island.

Gradually, they made their way down Shetland to the south end, Sumburgh, where they set up a fish trading station.  Shetland, in the middle of the North Sea, was on their route further west: to Iceland, Greenland and America … which is where Death on a Longship comes in, for the plot centres around a film about those voyages, with Gudrid, the first European woman in America, being played by Hollywood star, Favelle.

The story takes place on the west side of Shetland, in my own sailing territory:  Brae, Aith, Muckle Roe.  Strange sounding names, aren’t they?  It’s because they’re all descriptive Viking names: Brae, a broad inlet; Aith, a strip of land between two bays. Roe means ‘red’ – the island of Muckle Roe is the big, red island.   When my heroine, Cass, guides her replica longship into the Hams of Roe, she reflects that, ‘This would be my big test as skipper, to bring the ship in to shore without an engine, just as the Vikings had done, and in this place too.  Hams came from the old Norse ‘hamar’, a landing place.   I liked that idea.’

The Vikings didn’t just leave place names.  They also left their language, and in spite of the 500 years of Scottish overlords that came after them, the Shetland dialect is still scattered with the words they spoke:voe, a long sea inlet, peerie, small, a scar or a stour of wind.  We use their phrasing: it’s most splendid of you, Jess, to invite me on your site.  This gave me a problem as a writer.  I wanted my Shetland characters to speak with their own voice, yet I didn’t want to baffle my readers with their mix of old Scots and Viking Norn.  Instead of writing in dialect, I tried to catch the rhythm of Shetland speech – and so her friend Magnie greets Cass with: ‘Cass, well, for the love of mercy.  Norroway, at this season?  Yea, yea, we’ll find you a berth.’

The Shetland sea-going tradition is truly Viking.  We have Europe’s second-largest oil terminal here – Cass’s father worked there – and BP gave us disturbance money, to be used for the benefit of the community.  One of the things the Council did with it was to build little marinas all round the isles.  Cass lives aboard her Khalida in the 54-berth Brae Marina – I visit there frequently with my own Karima S, the original of Cass’s home.

Our love of the sea means Cass has no difficulty in enlisting a crew for her ship, to handle the sail and wield the great oars, for every district of Shetland has a yoal, an 18 ft, double-ended, six-man rowing boat, and yoal races are held at regattas throughout the summer.  The square Viking sail was no problem either, for the design continued into

Shetland fishing boats, and then into the three-man light-weight flyers called the Shetland model, or Maid, which are still seen skimming across the water at Shetland regattas.  Cass thinks: ‘My crew handled this ship as if they’d been born raiders.  The red and ochre sail fell without a flap, bellied out, and we began to move smoothly forward towards the narrow entrance between two cliffs, over water so clear you could see your anchor among the cauliflower weed and fanned mermaid’s hair.’

The Lerwick Up Helly Aa

The Lerwick Up Helly Aa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cass’s crew were even able to supply their own Viking costumes.  One of the most spectacular reminders of our Viking heritage is the fire festival Up Helly A, which takes place in Lerwick, Shetland‘s capital, in late January.  It’s led by a squad of Vikings, stunningly attired in velvet tunics, shining breastplates and horned or feathered helmets.  Up to a thousand guizers march in a torchlit procession through the streets of Lerwick (the streetlights are put out specially), with the chief Viking, the Jarl, brandishing an axe from his replica galley.  There are special songs, the galley is burnt, then everyone parties till morning.  The country versions of Up Helly A aren’t quite so large, but the lead Vikings are still resplendent in swirling cloaks and sheepskin boots.

No, there’s no difficulty in getting hold of a Viking costume in Shetland, and the red-fair Viking look is still seen here too, so once the beard is grown and the hair let loose, you’re pretty close to the real thing … for DNA tests have shown that a native Shetland man’s DNA is closer to that of a Norwegian than that of a Scotsman.   As any Shetlander would tell you: ‘The Scots were the interlopers.  The Norskies, they’re our cousins.’

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland’s scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland’s distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women’s suffrage in Shetland. She’s also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.

Marsali’s website
Attica Books

Leave a comment ?


  1. I thought I knew about Vikings until I read this guest post and realized that I have a lot to learn! That aside, the books sounds great and I can’t wait to read it:)

  2. I live for historical fiction. I have not mastered the genre, only having gone back to the world of the Cold War for my own fiction. I LOVELOVELOVE the Vikings in Shetland, with their own dialect and their own culture, there to be pieced together, like the Ukrainians are doing with my Jewish roots. Your intro here helps those of us who haven’t a clue about the gael Scots or the Nordic explorers. I will add that my dog, Ariella, was such a beautiful Norwegian Elkhound that hers is the picture that you see in the Wikipedia entry for the breed! The dogs, too, are marvelous explorers.

  3. Wow, I never knew most of the stuff you had about Vikings. I have added this book to my tbr wishlist.

  4. This book sounds awesome! I love historical fiction, it is a fun way to learn about things 🙂

  5. Thank you all for such positive comments – I hope the lucky winner really enjoys the book. I started to learn about our Viking heritage when I qualified as a tourist guide, and then our beautiful new Shetland Museum hosted a weekend conference that included talks about the Viking ships in Roskilde and a day tour of the most recent Viking archeological sites, up in the north isle of Unst. They were fascinating people – if a bit bloodthirsty for our modern tastes (read the sagas …) What surprised me most was learning how they navigated, just like Noah with his ark – they took a cage of ravens with them, and a day and a half out from land, released one. If it flew off, they followed – if it came back to the ship, they knew there was no land within a day’s flying, and continued. Clever!
    best wishes to you all,

    • Nice article Marsali and I am looking forward to reading your book, having experienced a Shetland filmset and if I remember rightly, got you and some of your Aith pupils onto the location for a tour! Have you written the screenplay of the novel yet?

      • Les, I haven’t written a screenplay, but would love to, if you think you’d be interested in filming it, or know someone who might be.
        Allison, it surprises me sometimes that Vikings are thought of so positively here – if you read the sagas, they were a casually bloodthirsty lot. I must find out more about their activities in Iceland – do you have a book you’d recommend?
        best wishes
        Marsali Taylor

  6. I don’t like Vikings–there are bad memories of them stiill in Ireland.

  7. This sounds totally great! I am so looking forward to reading the book!

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