Storytellers

What’s coming in 2024

I’ve spent almost all of 2023 writing, even though it might seemed like I hid from the world (I have). If you like any of my books so far, good news follows! (I’m really looking forward to having TWO books in ANY series…)

 

Storytellers follow-up

It’s happening. A few months ago, on a Thursday, someone asked me if there will ever be one, and I said no – I just didn’t have any ideas. I’d have to force myself to squeeze something out and it wouldn’t be very good. Then I had a dream. (Which is actually how Storytellers started, only it took me three years to realise the dream won’t give up until I write it down.)

The Poison Never Dies is about a thirteen-year-old girl, Camilla – because of course I know everything about being a 13yo girl – who awaits her first date. The boy never shows up. Instead, she overhears a very suspicious conversation. In the morning, the person is found dead. There are no traces, no reason to believe there’s been a murder, and Doctor Brynjólf declares the person died of natural causes. Is Camilla right? Was this conversation about what she thinks it was? Who’s going to believe her? There is love, there is another murder, lots of blackmail, and I know you only really want to know one thing. The answer is: YES HE IS THERE. And he’s happily married. With a son, too.

I’m posting quotes of the unfinished version on my ko-fi for subscribers only. I don’t know whether I’ll finish the whole book this year, because…

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We are default people too

“When we say that someone is ‘writing from the margins’, what does that mean? […] They’re writing about race, or gender, or country of origin, or disabilities, or… the list goes on. But. Why are they still in the margins? Why is it still considered that?” (Morgan Hazelwood, Writing SFF From the Margins)

Krystle Matar and I decided to talk about this topic, and how we refuse to keep both ourselves and our characters on the margins of SFF literature.

Shifting the default: what does it mean to you and why do you want to do it?

Krystle When talking about how much of your characters to include in your books, I’ve seen the advice, “if it serves a purpose to the plot, absolutely talk about their sexuality/identity.” This advice always rubbed me the wrong way. When have we ever asked if a character being heterosexual and male “serves a purpose” in the plot? Why should our characters being full and complicated humans have to be anything more than aspects of who they are? Why should they have to justify their existence by a checklist?

Maybe it’s because I’m a character writer first and a plot writer second—every part of them serves a purpose, but no particular part of them is more important than the other. In my head, they live and breathe. Those of us that don’t fit the default shouldn’t have to “serve a purpose” to be allowed to express ourselves to the fullest breadth of our existence. We should be allowed to just be—and I wanted to give my characters the same multifaceted depth that I’ve seen in the real world.

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Real life is happening

I’ve been quiet. I haven’t been posting quality content which could go viral and make me Internet-famous, possibly an influencer, advertising… uh… trips to Iceland at €1 million per sentence. Husby and I were busy with real life. In a nice way.

Surgery Battle of the month!

It looks like my fifth (I couldn’t figure out whether it was fourth or fifth until I counted the anaesthetic injections – you don’t forget injections in your eye socket easily) plastic surgery might be a success! Knock on wood. Hopefully I can do a visual newsletter again in a month or so. My modelling days are behind me – although never say never – so I only have to worry about never forgetting to wear sunglasses when in public. Also, I’m not sure why I tell people the truth when they ask me whether I was in a fight… Wait. YES. I forgot. It was an epic battle. I have slain dragons, then eaten their still beating hearts. I sat on the Iron Throne and shook hands with the Gods. (And with Cersei Lannister.) So much blood was spilled that I could extract iron from it, then forge a sword out of it. And I only got one wound!

The depression calmed down. Possibly because I was too busy. Since we also bought a house.

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Gods laugh at plans of mice and men

Tomorrow is the first day of the Storytellers blog tour, which means that for ten days, every day, three book bloggers will be posting their reviews and or excerpts from the book, interviews, plus two guest posts written by yours truly. The goal of a tour is to increase the visibility both of my book’s and me (the downside of being a new writer is that few people are aware of my existence) – and the bloggers’ work. Which means tweeting, retweeting, facebooking, refacebooking, standing on the nearest corner with a megaphone and so on.

I happen to be friends with a book blogger. (No disclaimer needed, since she has not reviewed my book.) Since we started chatting I found out how much work and time is really needed to maintain a book blog. Some of them are group efforts, like Rosie Amber’s Rosie’s Book Review Team, but most are the work of one person. A person who is expected to read, review, read, review, read, review regularly, no matter what life is up to. I have no idea what reviews Storytellers will get, good or bad, long or short, but I am already thankful to everybody who agreed to read my book, then write about it. In the last three weeks I managed to read 17% of Angela Boord’s Fortune’s Fool which is a wonderful book, but I just wasn’t really in a reading mood. A book blogger can’t just “not be in a reading mood” once a blog tour is planned and advertised.

Aaaaanyway, there I was, doing a nice flexy-flexy, stretchy-stretchy of my specially dedicated Share Button Finger, when all of a sudden life started to happen all over the place. Do you know this feeling when you discover one little problem? Really little, like a buzzing fly. Then another one arrives. And another, at which point you start getting a tad grumpy. Then one more, and another one…

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Independent people

Today is Icelandic National Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn), also known as the 75th anniversary of Iceland becoming a republic independent from Denmark. As it happens, two years ago we were in Iceland on that day. We missed everything.

When I first came to Amsterdam, the Pride canal parade was taking place. I spent the entire day record hunting. In Iceland, at least, we went into the country… okay, the Golden Circle… then, when we returned, we discovered something strange. There were Icelandic flags everywhere. Every single store was closed, streets – empty, every restaurant open and filled with people. We finally sat in a pizzeria (very traditional…), where I pulled out my phone and found out what was going on.

 

Independent people

Halldór Laxness’s Independent People, which made Iceland the nation with the most Nobel prize winners (i.e. one) per capita, was the second book I read as research for Storytellers. I did not understand a lot of metaphors back then, missing on all the political allusions, my confused eyebrows wandering higher and higher until all of my hair transported itself to the back of my neck. Once I did more research I ended up with a three-page treatise on Jón Sigurðsson, Iceland’s most famous politician of all time, the leader of Icelandic independence movement. I had to cut that out from the book for obvious reasons – its title wasn’t Icelandic History for Beginners – and it wasn’t until our visit to Iceland’s National Museum a year later that I understood exactly how important Jón was.

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A month in the life of a book

Storytellers was officially released on March 28, 2019. Today it’s exactly one month old. Once I’m on my tenth novel I probably won’t even notice this sort of thing, too busy signing contracts with Hollywood and buying mansions. But this is my first book-baby and every morning I wake up excited to see what’s going to happen.

Here’s what happened so far…

Writing

I’ve rewritten the entire book twenty-one times.

In September 2017 I believed the book to be finished and ready to go. I asked an editor to go through the text and correct my grammar and spelling – I am painfully aware that I’m not a native speaker. She returned the book just in time for my 40th birthday (poetic, right?), mentioning in passing that perhaps a few things could do with another look, not too much, just a lick of polish. The most shocking thing she said to me was that she felt that the female characters seemed slightly flat.

Those who know me are aware that I’m an avid feminist. Almost all of my favourite books feature amazing female characters so full of life that I feel like we are BFFs. I could have dismissed Megan’s remarks, and almost have, but two of them overlapped with my beta readers’ remarks. When one person doesn’t like a detail, it’s generally not a problem. Two, though – one of them a professional – should make you think. So I did a bit of rewriting here and there. Eighteen times. Seventeen months. The total: twenty-one times over twenty-six months. Lads and ladies, here’s my book-baby, a result of an extremely overdrawn pregnancy.

The #PubDay

Also known as the day when you can actually purchase the book.

GOOD GODS. First of all, I didn’t realise that Amazon paperbacks did not feature the preorder option, accidentally publishing an unfinished version on February 27, giving scammers a chance to “offer” the book that didn’t exist yet, meaning you could “buy” it from the scammer – but not from me. The hardcovers came with two dates: publication date and on-sale date, which technically is a preorder, but in practice the book showed up on Amazon on March 28th, declaring that it was released on March 7th. At least the e-book did come out on the day it was supposed to be released. There were, excitingly, some preorders. The super deluxe boxed sets sold out within less than three days since I announced them, way before I even put one paragraph online.

This was the simple bit.

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Storytellers: out today

It turns out that it is possible to be so busy launching your novel to forget to tell people you’re launching your novel… so… guess what!

Storytellers is out now.

Available formats: MOBI/Kindle Unlimited (Amazon exclusive), paperback, hardcover, and large print/dyslexia-friendly paperback. The regular paperback is also available on non-Amazon stores – here’s the full list of links (including country-specific links).

The super deluxe boxed set sold out before I even really announced it, which was a RIDE, let me tell ye. Now the ride is being very slow in the hands of DHL, but that’s another story… The deluxe and signed editions are available here on Etsy. So are the postcards, bookmarks, and some more cute swag will be added in the coming days. I’ve got posters as well, but sending them would cost 5x more than the poster itself, unless I fold it and post as letter – what do you think – would you want to buy a folded poster instead of a rolled one?

The audiobook is coming soon – this is as precise as I can be right now. I’ve got the voice training, I’m also training switching between accents (it’s going to be a total mish-mash), I’ve got studio equipment and software. The one thing I don’t have is silence – this is also why the video newsletter had to be postponed, as I’ve spent 12 hours today listening to walls being torn down next door. This is also a convenient excuse the reason why the soundtrack is “coming soon”.

Speaking of the audiobook, subscribe to my newsletter now to hear me speak a bit of Icelandic and help you pronounce the characters’ names – either tomorrow or on Saturday, depending on the amount of walls that still need to be torn down next door. As always, if you miss the newsletter the video part will become available two weeks later on my YouTube channel, so you can subscribe to that one as well (but remember the newsletter subscription comes with a free Vikings: from history to History e-book, and I don’t mind you unsubbing right after downloading the book, it’s all good).

I’ve created a special website for Storytellers, featuring a lengthy excerpt from the first chapter, behind the scenes information on the history of prohibition in Iceland, the meaning of the phrase “þetta reddast”, and more. The second, full trailer is coming next week. I’ll be updating the website further with more behind the scenes articles and my chosen cast for the inevitable Hollywood adaptation!

 

Reviews (excerpts and links)

Alright kids, this one is FOR SURE, a keeper. Bjørn has a knack for writing witty, enjoyable characters. Bjørn seamlessly brings the two [stories] together in a fast paced, action packed ending that definitely left me reading way past my bedtime (a bookworms famous last words amiright?) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Read Explore Repeat blog

Storytellers is historical fiction written in the style of an Icelandic saga. […] When the story reached its denouement it was worth the wait. – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Rosie Amber

The book was reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, in both theme and mood. Both books deal with the unreliability of memory; both are largely melancholy books. And perhaps there is allegory in them both, too. Storytellers is a book to be read when there is time for contemplation, maybe of an evening with a glass of wine. It isn’t always the easiest read, but it’s not a book I’m going to forget easily, either. – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Marian L. Thorpe (author of the Empire’s Legacy series)

What an amazing book! […] I pride myself on figuring out mysteries and plots as I go, and I have to say, I was not only on the edge of my seat, I never saw the ending coming! – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Penni Ellington (Goodreads)

This book blew me away. It’s a terrific story within a story, both of wich have rich characters and are very compelling. There are characters you hate to love, and love to hate. There’s action and adventure. The twists and turns made this book one I couldn’t put down. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Bjorn Larssen because I need MORE! – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Kelly (Goodreads)

 

One more thing…

I am changing the description of this website – very slightly. I’m replacing the word “writer” with “author”.

Many people have their own definition of what those two words mean. Way too many wonderful people I know – creative, interesting, curious, exciting people whose words enlighten my days – don’t feel like they’re good/accomplished/etc. enough to call themselves “writers”. The way I see it, a writer is a person who writes. I didn’t say professional writer, right? A ghostwriter is a writer. A person who writes fanfics is a writer. A person who says “ugh, this book is awful, I could write a better one in my sleep, I just didn’t get to it yet” – not a writer. I was that person for 39 years, so I have a lot of experience with being a not-writer…

An author – again, to me personally – is someone who authored something. You could say I was an author the day I received the final draft from my wonderful editor, Megan Dickman. Or when I got the text back from the equally fantastic proofreader, Abbie of Pilcrow Proofreading. Or when I got the first proof copy in my sweaty hands. But I’m making that little change today. And celebrating the #PubDay with tea and delightful Indian food, together with Husby, who’s been supporting me from day one (January 1, 2017), holding my hand, patiently reading multiple drafts, cheering me on, not getting too angry when he’d say “the house is on fire” and I’d answer “yeah right, sorry, got to finish this scene”.

Onwards, Buttercup, there’s more bookery to write!

Storytellers: out today Read More »

Blacksmithing: An axe and a death

My first forge welding class with Casper Prager.

Part 1Part 2Part 3

Karl stopped travelling. He also stopped paying much attention to Gunnar, focusing entirely on Sóley. Gunnar was now free to work at the forge whenever he felt like it, unnoticed, alone, happy. He found a machine grinder operated with a pedal and figured out how to sharpen his knife with it – his third knife, and the first that was almost completely straight. Once he was done, he threw it into a corner, ready to start on the next one, determined to get it right, before realising he hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast many hours ago.

They took turns on the “bed” downstairs. Gunnar couldn’t decide which one he preferred. He felt oddly uncomfortable when sleeping upstairs with his mother, filled with a dreadful feeling that even her snoring expressed anger about something he had either done or not done. The night after, though, he would change his mind and decide that it was nothing compared to the physical discomfort of the new “bed”, which was a mostly flat pile of turf covered with a sheepskin. Also, when he stayed downstairs, his parents fought incessantly, quieter than before, but loud enough to be heard through the wooden ceiling.

“Your nerves,” Karl would say again and again. “Have you been drinking the herbs?”

“Like I’m a fool! I know they are poison! You want to get rid of me, so nothing stops you from seeing the others!”

“There are no others. How am I supposed to prove it to you? I don’t go anywhere anymore, except when I have to go to town…”

“Do you think I don’t know what happens in town?!”

“Nothing, I buy food, other necessities, then come back home as fast as I can.” Karl’s voice was becoming lower and quieter. Gunnar knew what that meant and shivered in his cold bed.

“I don’t believe you! She, they buy it all, then give it to you so you have an excuse!”

“Sóley, you’re being unreasonable. Please try the herbs. Your nerves…”

Gunnar finally dozed off, only to wake up with pain in his neck, his whole body stiff, cold. His left hand, which he slept on, was asleep and the pricks of pain started a moment later when blood found its way back. It was May, but the walls would only become warm for about two days at the end of August. They seemed to always be covered with a thin layer of frozen mold. Tonight he would be sleeping upstairs, where the wooden walls, cold as they were, didn’t feel so… slippery. But that meant he would be sleeping next to his mother…

*

In the morning, Gunnar grabbed a piece of bread and a mug of coffee, then retreated into the forge as quickly as possible. It was becoming his favourite place on Earth. Here nobody ever interrup–

Someone knocked on the front door and the boy nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Is Karl there? I need that axe.”

“Ah, it’s… it’s almost ready, I…”

“He didn’t do it,” said the man flatly. “Tell him I’ll be back tomorrow and it better be ready.” He departed, shaking his head, and Gunnar stared behind him before returning inside and picking up the axe. Its blade was cracked, and when Gunnar squinted he could see the crack was deeper than it looked, becoming thin as a hairline, but still present. Maybe it would be possible to simply remove some of the metal using the grinder…? It would be a bit smaller, but perfectly good…

A few minutes later he had to interrupt his parents.

“Good God!” exclaimed Karl. “You could have lost an eye! What have you done?”

“I was just trying– this man came, and he was asking–“

“Of course he was,” interrupted Sóley. “Your father makes a lot of promises, but never delivers on them. Come here. You’ve got a piece of metal in your forehead, how did you even do that, fool?”

“You can’t sharpen a broken axe,” said Karl, as Sóley huffed, puffed, and put iodine on the wound. Gunnar tried and failed not to hiss in pain. “The edge is made of hardened steel. It’s much harder, hence the name, but it breaks. As you can see.”

“It’s a miracle he can see at all! A bit lower, and he would never see anything again. Because someone doesn’t even–”

“We’re going to do it now,” announced Karl. “Sóley… please try the herbs, at least one time, just to see whether they help a bit. Gunnar and I are going to fix that axe right now.”

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Blacksmithing: Gunnar makes a blade

This is exactly how it’s NOT supposed to be done…

Part 1Part 2

Gunnar found a new reason to live. He dreamt about forging horseshoes, and didn’t even mind that they weren’t swords. His work was now proudly displayed above the door, and the moment Gunnar entered the kitchen his eyes were automatically drawn to the spot until his mother got irritated. At that point he would apologise, pay attention to her for a minute or two, then withdraw into his imagination again. But Karl went away again and there was no way to tell when he was going to return.

Despite the burns, which were not healing as fast as he wished they would, the boy’s hands itched to grab a hammer again. He still had an unfinished nail in his pocket and felt he knew what to do even without his father’s help. Once three days passed without his return, Gunnar found enough courage – or desperation – to ask Sóley’s permission.

“Go,” she said, resigned.

This was too easy, thought Gunnar, confused. There must have been a catch somewhere. Nevertheless, he decided not to wait until she changed her mind, unlocked the door with sweaty hands, then looked inside. All this was his now, at least for a while. He opened the windows, as instructed by his father, then built the fire. His first attempt failed – simply because he was too excited to do it slowly. The boy ground his teeth and forced himself to be patient. The kindling, the crumpled paper. Gentle pulling and pushing of the blowers. Only when the wood was burning joyfully did he put a handful of coal in, then another, until the fire seemed just right. Now he could finally take the nail out of his pocket.

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Blacksmithing: Gunnar makes a horseshoe

Icelandic model horseshoe, decorated. If you bought one of the (sold out) super deluxe boxed set editions of Storytellersthis is what you’re going to get.

Read Part 1

This time, to Gunnar’s relief, Karl was away only for two days. Mother always got upset when father left, but this time she seemed to be upset with Gunnar for some reason. He didn’t like his mother very much and it seemed that she felt the same towards him, even though both maintained the facade of politeness that came with clenched teeth and white knuckles. It was her own fault, decided Gunnar. If she didn’t start fights with father, he wouldn’t have to go away to get some peace and quiet.

When Karl came back home, all smiles, he handed her a book. Sóley threw it on the table without even looking. Gunnar knew what would happen next. He’d be sent upstairs, to bed, and his parents would fight again. Why did mother have to be like this? Father brought her a present. At least they were quiet enough for their voices to become background noise and Gunnar fell asleep, the unfinished nail under his pillow.

*

“How are your hands? Still hurting?”

“Nay. They’re perfect,” said Gunnar and immediately began sweating at the thought he’d be forbidden from working at the forge ever again. “Never better. Excellent,” he said, avoiding his father’s doubtful gaze, hiding his shaky hands behind his back.

“Good! We can make your first horseshoe then.”

The boy relaxed at first before grasping the full sentence. “A gleaming horseshoe,” he mumbled, trying to sound happy.

Karl looked at him oddly. “Gleaming? Where did you get that from?”

“Eh… a story?”

“What story?”

“The one with the gleaming horseshoes, clearly,” snapped Sóley. Karl winced, but kept smiling. Gunnar turned his eyes away, staring at the forge door. It was locked, like always, but maybe he could somehow get his hands on the key, then work at night… no, they would hear that, maybe when father was away… but then, mother hardly ever left the house…

“Good,” said Karl. “We’ll make a gleaming horseshoe.” He chuckled and Gunnar blushed, although he didn’t know why.

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