29 March 2017

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Varangian - Book Three of Odd Tangle-Hair's Saga, by Bruce Macbain #HFVBT

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Varangian is the final entry in Bruce Macbain's Odd Tangle-Hair Saga and brings Odd's challenging adventures to a climactic and satisfying finish. On a secret diplomatic mission to the Emperor's court in Miklagard, the Viking's name for Constantinople, Odd meets the members of the fearsome Varangian Guard whose elite Viking members served as the Emperor's personal bodyguards. Harald, his former master and the man he's been sent to murder, now serves among the guards. Court intrigue and imperial dynastic disputes provide the backdrop for the conflict between Odd and Harald. Like Odin's Child and The Ice Queen before it,The Varangian
is dictated by Odd to a young scribe whose own life
is changed by the telling of the tale.

Tony suggested to me that I write something on the craft of writing. This took me by surprise because none of the writers that I hang around with ever want to talk about craft. At a recent meeting of my local writers’ group I suggested that we talk about writing—which, after all, is what we do everyday. This suggestion was met with crashing silence. Instead, we plunged into yet another mind-numbing discussion of how to promote ourselves on social media: the only thing we ever seem to talk about.

So what gives? Why don’t writers want to talk about writing? Are we jealously guarding the recipe for the secret sauce that only we know? Or, do we think there is simply nothing new to say on the subject? That Elmore Leonard and Stephen King have said it all and there is not a jot to be added? Who knows, maybe painters never want to talk about the craft of painting. 

It seems to me, that as the author of five novels (which I will now immodestly name: Roman Games, The Bull-Slayer, Odin’s Child, The Ice Queen, and The Varangian, two of which were Editor’s Choices in the Historical Novels Review) I ought to be able to say something about how I do what I do. But it’s difficult. I’ve taught a lot of things in my life but creative writing is not one of them, nor have I ever taken a course in it. Still, let me mention, for what it’s worth, a couple of things that I do find helpful. 

For one, I carry a small digital voice recorder in my pocket everywhere I go. (Mine is an Olympus and it’s seen me through five novels and into the sixth.) I find that ideas come to me in no particular order, at no given time, and never when I try to force them. These can be a single word, a line of dialog, a fragment of description, or a major plot twist. And if I don’t nail them down right away, they’re gone. So I tell them to my little recorder.

I used to be embarrassed to be heard doing this in public places, but nowadays everybody is talking into a device of some kind so I don’t stand out. If I’m overheard saying, “Ingigerd and Odd make love in the sauna” or “Zoe has remarkably firm breasts for a woman of sixty”, I might just be talking to a friend about some mutual acquaintances. Then, when I sit down at my computer, I play them back, organize them, reject the ones I don’t like anymore, and feed the rest into my outline.

Which brings me to my second point: outlining. I spend a lot of time outlining before I start to write. Of course, the outline can change as I work, and always does. But I need to have the feeling that there is a roadmap, or safety net, or choose your own metaphor. And I play a mental trick on myself: everything is an outline. As long as I tell myself that I’m only outlining, I feel very free and the words flow. But as soon as I tell myself that I’m going to write the damn chapter, I freeze. This is true; I just went through this this morning on my work in progress, Shanghai Blues.

I do know one or two writers who claim that outlining for them takes the fun, or the spontaneity, out of their writing. But I think it just depends on what you call an outline. And one only has to think of the plot snarls that Dickens (my favorite author) often got himself into as a result of not having one.

What else? Although I write on a computer, and I frankly wonder how anyone ever wrote anything before there were computers, I find that I can only correct on a printed copy. I just see things on the page that I never see on the screen. Maybe this is just because I’m an old guy.

Let me conclude with my philosophy of writing historical fiction—not that you asked. Do thorough research; use all the facts you can; bend them a little if you have to; when you run out of facts, make them up. But always—and this is the point I insist on--append an Author’s Note in which you offer some information on the sources and explain briefly what is real and what isn’t. I think if you do that, you’re playing fair with your reader.

Bruce Macbain
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About the Author

Bruce Macbain holds degrees in Classics and Ancient History and was formerly an Assistant Professor of Classics at Boston University. He decided to stop writing scholarly articles (which almost no one read) and turn his expertise to fiction—a much more congenial medium. His previous novels include two mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games, The Bull Slayer) and the first two novels in the Odd Tangle-Hair series (Odin’s Child, The Ice Queen). For more information, please visit Bruce MacBain’s website. You can also find him on FacebookGoogle+, Goodreads and Twitter @BMacbain.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, March 20
Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 21
Review at Rainy Day Reviews
Friday, March 24
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Sunday, March 26
Excerpt at T’s Stuff
Wednesday, March 29
Guest Post at The Writing Desk
Friday, March 31
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, April 4
Review at Book Nerd
Friday, April 7
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, April 11
Review at A Book Geek
Thursday, April 13
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, April 18
Excerpt at Books, Dreams, Life
Wednesday, April 19
Guest Post at Myths, Legends, Books and Coffee Pots
Thursday, April 27
Review at Broken Teepee


To win a copy of The Varangian by Bruce Macbain, please enter via the Gleam form below. Three copies are up for grabs!
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Varangian

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