The Burning Stone

Christina here. Amber necklaceThe hero of my latest book The Runes of Destiny is a Viking merchant who trades in all kinds of goods – whatever will make him the most profit. However, when I researched the type of things he would be likely to bring on a trip to Miklagarðr (Byzantium), I became fascinated by one in particular – amber. The more I read about it, the more I came to appreciate it, and I could well imagine how pleased a Viking woman would have been to receive such a gift – who wouldn’t be? It also seemed like the ideal trade goods – it was easy to transport, didn’t take up much space, and was highly sought after everywhere, plus in some places you could actually pick it up for free! (If you knew where to look).

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The Luxury of Tea

Tea kanji

Kanji meaning tea

Christina here. Despite being half British, I’ve never been much of a tea drinker. I don’t mind it, but it’s not my favourite beverage. It doesn’t work on me as a panacea or cure-all either, the way most British people seem to see it. If I have a cold or the weather is chilly and damp as now, however, I do occasionally enjoy a cup of Twinings English Breakfast with lots of milk and sugar. It’s cosy and yes, quite comforting. And we all take for granted how cheap and easy it is to buy it – but that wasn’t always the case!

Wooden_tea_caddy _Museum_of_Liverpool Reptonix free Creative Commons licensed photos  CC BY 3.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Wooden_tea_caddy,_Museum_of_Liverpool

Although nowadays we can buy tea bags of every variety in the supermarket, or loose weight tea in specialist shops without any problems, in the 18th century it was a luxury commodity. Housewives kept the tea in lockable tea caddies so that only they could dispense it. And there was a reason for that – importing it was quite an undertaking. While doing the research for my first historical novel, Trade Winds, I read about the journey an East India merchant ship had to make in 1731/32 order to go to Canton in China to buy tea and other goods to bring back to Europe. I couldn’t believe how complicated and hazardous it all was!

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Travelling with Vikings

Christina here. Next week sees the publication of the second book in my Viking series – The Runes of Destiny. It is the story of Linnea, a twenty-first century woman who ends up travelling back in time to the Viking age. Here’s a short blurb:-

TROD Medium“When helping out at an archaeological dig, Linnea uncovers an exquisite brooch, but blacks out after reading the runic inscription. She wakes up surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-enactment very seriously. Lost and confused, she finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the 9th century. Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …”

This story was inspire3d by the incredible Viking travels I’d read about. Despite their reputation as ferocious marauders, there was much to admire about the Vikings, and the one thing I am in total awe of is their fearless exploration of the world around them. It didn’t happen overnight, of course, and Scandinavian people had been travelling in all directions for decades (perhaps centuries) before the era we call the Viking age. However, the refinement of their sleek, clinker-built ships allowed them to go further and faster than ever before because of the invention of the keel. It gave the ships a stability they’d lacked and allowed them to take to the high seas. The fact that the vessels were shallow with a fairly flat bottom also made it easy for them to land on any beach and to travel far along most rivers without getting stuck.

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