I have had several very kind, gracious inquiries from readers recently asking about the status of book 5. An update on that is due.
First, let me reveal that there now are going to be two more books in the Strongbow Saga series, a fifth and a sixth book. I was hoping to fit the remainder of the story into one long book, but have come to realize that that’s not the best choice for several reasons. First, the remainder of the Strongbow Saga has two very distinct plot arcs. The first, which will now be book 5, concerns the company’s journey into the area that is now Northern Russia, in an attempt to find and rescue Sigrid. The second, which will be book 6, concerns the return voyage to Denmark—a relatively short segment, but one that will contain some significant plot developments—then the journey on to Ireland, where the final confrontation with Toke will take place. The two arcs are more logically two books than one, plus there’s no way I could complete both this year, which is a strong argument for splitting them up.
A major part of the delay in getting book 5 out was the research necessary to write the Russia part of the story. The history of the Vikings in Russia is not nearly as well known or understood as is their history in the west, in their own homelands, in Europe, and in England. There is quite a lot of source material available for those areas, including accounts actually written during the Viking era, saga stories, and archeological findings, plus numerous works summarizing and/or analyzing the underlying historical data.
By contrast, for the period in which the Strongbow Saga is set—the mid 9th century—there is relatively little data available about Russia. There are essentially no contemporaneous accounts, save one or two brief, cryptic mentions in Frankish sources, and only a few mentions in the old sagas. Most of the data is just archeological findings, which, while they reveal the presence in the north-western Russia area of Viking-age Scandinavians, do not provide a clear picture of what exactly was going on there. The picture is further muddled by the fact that the later-written annals of the Rus, the Russian kingdom which was founded by Swedish Vikings beginning sometime in the mid to late 9th century, are more legend than fact when trying to tell the origin story of the Rus kingdom.
I write by “seeing” the scenes of the story in my mind, then putting those visual images into words. For a long time, I could not “see” Viking Russia clearly enough for that process to work. But eventually I finally did process the very extensive amount of researched data into an understanding of what I believe is a very likely historically accurate composite of mid-ninth century Viking Russia. Once I could “see” the setting, the story began to fall into place, and the Russian segment of the story is now largely worked out. That is not to say it has been completed—I’m still in the process of going from notes and outlines to fully fleshed out, finalized pages—but I do believe I can complete and publish book 5 before the end of this year, barring unforeseen problems.
Progress on book 5 has been, in fact, delayed in recent months by unforeseen problems, in that both my wife and I had to deal with some health issues that ate up a lot of our time. And living on a farm as we now do, there is always work to be done that cannot be ignored, and must take priority when time is limited. But those health issues seem to be behind us now, thankfully, and hopefully will not delay my writing any more.
I do apologize for how long this next installment has been taking, and appreciate my readers’ patience and understanding.