Ragnarök Willie

When an eccentric archeologist unearths the prehistoric fortress of Valhalla, thirteen semi-mythical valkyries, an ancient pagan cult, and young Lasse Nordberg all head north.  The valkyries are vying with each other over global domination.  The pagans are plotting revenge for the millennium-old Christian invasion.  Lasse, a university dropout and video game junkie, is looking for a job, a girlfriend who doesn’t cheat, and a decent latte.

Thrilled to find work at an obscure newspaper in the frozen armpit of arctic Sweden, Lasse is assigned to report on the dig.  He wonders why his blond boss keeps a bevy of throwing axes in her desk drawer.  And why the sexy druidess keeps asking him about old hunting horns.  He should do more than wonder: his boss is one of the valkyries, wingless but deadly, and his druidic girlfriend is using him to find Gjallarhorn, the not-so-mythical horn of Heimdallr.  Which, if blown three times, will awaken Odin’s undead warriors for Ragnarök, the battle at the end of the world.

Come Midwinter’s Day, his back to a pillar of fire, surrounded by warring valkyries, a blue-bearded giantess charging at him, Lasse has already blown Gjallarhorn twice.

winter scene

Publication and Awards:

Unpublished for now, but getting closer.  Ragnarök Willie was recently selected as the 2015  winner of the Pikes Peak Writers Zebulon Fiction Award in the urban fantasy category. The finals were judged by a well-respected New York literary agent, so I’m cautiously-optimistic-but-still-know-it’s-a-longshot enough to start the dreaded querying process.  As I’ll be attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs to accept the award, I will start querying  there, with two scheduled agent pitches.  Wish me luck.

Author’s notes:

Ragnarök Willie is an 86,000 word mythica novel set in modern Sweden. It is nearing completion, which is to say it’s been “done” for a while and I’m tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. It started life as a short story, number three of my five-part Valkyrie collection (1 = “The Einherja”; 2 = “How a Valkyrie Flies”; 4 = “Preschool War Games“; 5 = “Hel’s Horse Cannot Swim”).  It quickly grew into a novella, and in the fall of 2011 I let Lasse decide. He opted for full novel status. The novel writing part took a good year, and then it’s spent the past couple of years in editing and rewrites.

For more information on valkyries, see All about valkyries.

viking bird

I chose Lasse Nordberg to be the protagonist both to keep a neutral view on the thirteen-sided war that ensues and to provide a tiny amount on testosterone in book dominated by incredibly strong female characters.  It also allows Lasse and the reader to slowly learn what the ____ is going on, versus using one or more of the valkyries as the protagonist(s). And I’m pretty sure neither I nor my readers really wanted thirteen points of views.But make no mistake–this is a book about powerful women with battle-axes and battle tanks waging a war that may end the world.

But make no mistake–this is a book about powerful women with battle-axes and battle tanks waging a war that may end the world. And if thirteen semi-mythical Cersei Lannisters vying for global domination isn’t enough, there’s a blue-bearded frost giantess who really wants to destroy the world. And she’s growing.

When I was Lasse’s age, I lived and worked in Sweden.  While I never met any valkyries there, I speak the language, I’ve heard the old sagas in seedy krogs, and I’ve pressed my cheek to the weathered rune stones and felt the cold power. So while the novel is written in English with a global cast of characters, I hope that when my Swedish friends read it they will feel it’s truly a Swedish story. And who knows, maybe if it’s successful, one day I will translate it into Swedish.

Pronunciation tips:

Lots of Swedish and even old Norse names, as well as a deliberate smattering of Swedish words, so here are some tips on pronunciation:

  • Lasse: LAH-suh
    • Lasse is a common nickname for Lars
  • Ragnarök: RAG-nar-oek
    • Ragnar is an old name (the main character in the TV series The Vikings), so pronounce it like the name plus a clipped ook as in rook
    • Ragnarök is literally the final battle in the Old Norse sagas
  • General hints
    • The Swedish Js is pronounced like an English y
    • The A with a circle above it, Å or å , is pronounced like long O
    • The A with two dots above it, Ä or ä, is pronounced like  a short E
    • The O with a two dots above it, Ö or ö, is pronounced like a very short, lips puckered, O
    • The Swedish K can be a hard K like in English or an sh sound (kinda–rather unique) otherwise
  • Commonly used Swedish words
    • Hej: Hi, pronounced hay
    • Ja: Yes, pronounced ya
    • Nej: No, pronounced nay
    • Ja, just det: Yes of course, pronounced ya yusta (one of my favorite Swedish phrases)
    • Morbror: Uncle (on the mother’s side, literally mother’s brother), more-bro
    • Förlåt: Sorry, pronounced FIR-loat (like in boat)

And if any of my Swedish friends want to chime in on this, please do.  I am a litle rusty.

Excerpt: 

Ragnarök Willie

C.R. Hodges

Chapter 3: Sill leveranstjej—Herring Delivery Girl

Kirunas Correspondenten, aka Corren, the second largest newspaper in Kiruna, occupied a one-room office with three steel desks and a solitary window, open despite the cold. The wall opposite the window was covered in twenty-centimeter-long hash marks at all angles, some form of modern art no doubt. The blue-haired woman stood just inside, white scarf draped over one shoulder. “Hej,” she asked, “you the new reporter?”

“Uh. I mean, yes. Lasse. Hi,” I said. “You must be Mist.” Her face was quite cute actually, with emerald eyes and a sprinkling of freckles accenting one cheek. She smelled good too, like a fresh-cut pine tree on Christmas Eve.

“Oh no,” she said, her smile evaporating. “I just deliver the herring.”

Goddag.” A throaty voice.

I whirled around to find another tall woman, blue eyes locked on mine, unblinking. Not sky blue or cobalt or azure, her eyes were pure, monochromatic blue. “Er, good day to you,” I said, retreating a step. She loomed over me, her eye sockets deep and bony, the mottled skin on her gaunt face pale. “Hello, I’m—” My ankle protested as I took another step backward. I tripped on a side chair, almost falling. “I’m Lasse Nordberg. Your new employee.”

Her handshake was bone crushing. I winced, dropping my gaze. Once past the sink-a-thousand-ships face, the rest of her bordered on perfection: voluminous waves of blond hair, long legs in a gray leather skirt five centimeters short of professional, and tits that would have made a thirteen-year-old boy blush. Which I must have been doing, despite being nearly twice that age, because she asked, “Do you need a glass of water?”

“I’m all good, Ms. Svensson.”

“You may call me Mist.” Her voice was somehow old yet fresh, like meltwater from a glacier.

“Call me Bull,” a booming voice said in British English, from behind the desk I had backed into.

I spun around, slower this time, determined not to fall. Bull was aptly named, his neck the diameter of my chest, his grip only a notch less incapacitating than Mist’s. His blue jeans were pressed, as was his button-down shirt, and he wore a striped necktie. Extra-long.

“Sit.” Mist motioned toward a folding chair in front of the desk by the window.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the herring delivery girl was standing in the doorway, her hand over her mouth. She winked and departed. Goodbye, one-normal-person-in-this-town.

Mist cleared her throat, the last gasp of a garroted elk.

I sat.

She walked around the desk and cranked open the window another ten centimeters. The cold air, laced with eau de old tar, made my skin prickle. She soaked it in, bare shoulders arched back. “Have you read our newspaper?”

A win. “Ja, just det.” I pulled out my tablet and tapped Favorites.

Blue portals to some nether dimension glared at me from sunken eye sockets, her skin stretched over her skull like parchment. With a sudden jerk, she ripped open the desk drawer and extracted a small axe, its blade curved and polished. Fearing she was going to hurl it at me, I winced, but she placed it on the desk and reached back into the drawer. “I said, have you read our newspaper?” she asked, slower now, as she pulled out a paper edition and set it next to the axe.

Figuring I haven’t read a printed newspaper in my entire life might prove to be last words, I lied. “Yes, of course. Terrific feature on the orienteering club.”

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