Sunday, December 7, 2008


During a recent "RuneWarriors" presentation to 300 students at the Mayfield Junior School in Pasadena, we all took a thousand-year trip back in time when a real live Viking invaded the auditorium to pay us a surprise visit. His name was "Garth the Viking" (otherwise known as Richard Ashton, the highly accomplished British actor of stage and screen). Dressed in authentic Viking war gear of chain mail, spiked armor, leather boots and leg breeches, and armed with weaponry of every kind, he brought the ancient world alive once again as he took questions from the students and explained what the life of a "real Viking warrior" was like. Much to everyone's surprise (and relief), he was extraordinarily polite and well-spoken, and chose not to chop off anyone's head, and explained that when you carry a war axe as sharp as his, you rarely have to use it. Thanks to Tatiana Guyer and Cathy Lin for all their help in putting the event together, and deepest gratitude to Richard for his enlightening performance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


On Oct. 30th, 2008, we paid a visit to the amazing campus of Brawerman Elementary School of Wilshire BoulevardTemple, in West Los Angeles. We gave our presentation on various aspects of Norse mythology and Viking culture to a learned group of 5th and 6th graders. As it turned out, the students had been already learning about Viking history as part of their school curriculum, so they asked some very smart questions and offered some insights of their own to the morning's discussion. For instance, women enjoyed far more freedom and responsiblity in Viking society than did their counterparts in other European cultures of that era (800 - 1000 AD). They could own land, they could choose their own husbands, and they were allowed to divorce if their husbands failed to provide for them or indulged in abusive behavior. How's that for first millenium feminism?

Thanks to the assistant head of school, Susan Isaacson, and teachers Lee Tenerowicz, Marcia Weiss, Todd Zinn, David Leib, Julie Tracht and Peter Levenson for all their support. Special thanks to Ben Shirken for asking so many smart questions, and to his mom, Kirsten Shirken, for helping to arrange it all.

After giving a riveting reading, Tom shocks the students by pulling out a real Viking sword and threatening to slice someone's head off if they don't validate his parking! Just kidding. The war-blade he is demonstrating is actually a perfectly-safe replica of an authentic Viking-era sword, but every bit the size and weight of a real one. Jim purchased it from a Norse history museum this summer in Sognefjord, Norway. Though the edge of the blade is dull, its point is rather sharp and we advise students to handle it carefully or else they are liable to cut themselves (or, heaven forbid, hurt a teacher who gives too much homework).

You like the feel of that, huh, kid? Well, don't get any ideas.

Even the teachers are getting ideas...

The class clown gets into the act.

(Though it flies in the face of received wisdom, in truth, the Vikings did NOT wear horned helmets as often depicted in movies, on TV, and in other pop-culture media. This is just one of the many things the children learned in our "RuneWarriors" history-quiz presentation. If you'd like us to visit your school, drop us a line at )


We've had the honor of being invited to several schools over the past few months to give presentations on "RuneWarriors," and our first visit (on Sept. 24, 2008) was to Park Century School in Culver City, CA. The students were enjoying their first week in a fabulous new building and it was a pleasure to be there to see the place in all its gleaming brand-spanking-newness. As part of the student book fair, we gave a brief talk to students and their parents on the comic use of Norse mythology in our novel, we performed a reading, and afterward happily signed copies of our book for several eager readers. We thank the Park Century Directors Gail Spindler and Genny Shain, Academic Coordinator Nancy Bley, "super librarian" Joel Moss, and everyone else who helped to make our visit there so much fun, including Karin Olson, Arthur Hoyle, Brenda Cooper, Jamie C and our friends at Mrs. Nelsons Book Fairs. Special high-fives to two of our favorite students at Park Century, Thomas Guest and Trent Carpenter, for getting all of our jokes and for adding many of their own.

People say that my readings are too dry and unemotional.

I'll have to work on that.

RuneWarriors Author Events
6/1/08 Author Book Signing, BOOK EXPO AMERICA, LA Conv. Ctr
6/28/08 Fiction Authors Breakfast, AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOC. Convention, Disneyland Hotel
8/21/08 Author Dinner/Talk, ANDERSON'S BOOKS, Aurora, IL
9/24/08 Book Fair Author Visit, PARK CENTURY SCHOOL, Culver City, CA (Special thanks to Tom Guest and Trent Carpenter!)
10/5/08 Book signing, VILLAGE BOOKS, Pacific Palisades, CA
10/18/08 "A Movable Feast," SOCAL INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS ASSN annual awards banquet, Millenium Biltmore, Los Angeles, CA
Wilshire Boulevard Temple, W. L.A. CA
11/4/08 7th Grade / GODDARD MIDDLE SCHOOL, Glendora, CA
Thanks to Principal DiGrazia, Nicole Hester and all the other teachers and students that packed the gymnasium for our presentation. Thanks also to Shaelyn Koops from Blue Chair Books for coordinating the event and providing copies of RuneWarriors for us to sign.
(Thanks to Tatiana Guyer, Cathy Lin and Lyn Beecher for arranging everything!)
11/22/08 Young Writers Workshop, BARNES & NOBLE, Encino, CA
12/5/08 A reading/signing at BLUE CHAIR BOOKS, Glendora, CA
12/9/08 Book Fair presentation to 5th & 6th graders, WILDWOOD SCHOOL, Culver City, CA
12/12/08 CENTRAL MIDDLE SCHOOL, Tinley Park, IL
2/19/09 Glendora School visit
Thanks to school secretary Tamsie Pierce, Principal Scott Woodward, and Samantha from Mysterious Galaxy Books! Thanks also to dear friends Catherine & Bob Palmer for tea and sympathy.
5/21/09 PALISADES ELEMENTARY, Pacific Palisades, CA
Kudos to Kathi Berman for coordinating our fun visit to this fabulous school. All the students we meet continue to rock our world and challenge us with their curiousity and their imaginations.
11/19/09 PALISADES ELEMENTARY, Pacific Palisades, CA
We signed books at the fall Book Fair, met the principal, Joan Ingle, Fay Lyons the book fair coordinator, and made a lot of new friends.
1/22/10   LAUNCH PARTY for Book Two 'RuneWarriors: Sword of Doom' at Village Books in Pacific Palisades. Wine, words and wonderful friends.
4/14/10  SEVEN ARROWS SCHOOL, Pacific Palisades, CA
4/21/10  PAUL REVERE MIDDLE SCHOOL, Pacific Palisades, CA

If you would like the authors of “RuneWarriors” to visit your store or school and give a presentation on Norse mythology, you may contact us at:

Friday, October 10, 2008

RuneWarriors Publication Party!


A RuneWarriors publication party was held in Los Angeles the week the book first appeared on store shelves nationwide. With so many friends and family on hand to celebrate the book's debut, it was a particularly satisfying event. Click on the movie to view it for yourself.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


On October 5, 2008, Village Books in Pacific Palisades, CA, became "Pillage Books" as a horde of Viking-philes swarmed the store to celebrate the publication of "RuneWarriors," an epic comedy set in ancient Norse times. As the party-goers plundered the exquisite wines and cheeses (generously provided by Allison Robbins Wines), we signed books, gave a reading and felt honored to be in such hale and hearty company. A tip o' the war helmet also goes to Allison Robbins, Katie O'Laughlin, owner of Village Books, and all those who invaded the store that day, ransacking the shelves for good books. The cry of the day: "Let our blades taste blood!"


Tom and Jim signing for a friend. 

Above, super-agent Sandra Lucchesi with voice-over artist D.J. Holte , whose amazing vocal talents can be heard on our website --

Yet another example of the fine professional photography skills which my friends possess.

One young reader asked us to sign two books -- one for him and one for his school's library.  Thanks, Luke!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This August, I spent two weeks in Norway to visit friends and learn more about Vikings. The land was indescribably beautiful, and the people so open and friendly. Here are some pictures I took of authentic Viking artifacts and various shots from the mountainous lands of Jotunheimen, the so-called Land of the Giants.

Jim in front of an actual Viking farmhouse from the 12th Century. Notice the small doorway and the sophisticated interlocking log designs. Who knew that the Vikings invented "Lincoln logs?"

I loved the carved decorations on this Tenth Century Viking drinking horn.

Jim with his wife Allison and son Jake atop a pre-Viking burial mound on the island of Hanko from around 500 B.C. Kings, queens and other royal personages were laid to rest beneath these large mounds called "barrows" usually placed on hilltops near shore so that they could be seen from ships at sea.

Authentic Viking belt buckles and a silver decorative war helmet.

chessmen carved of walrus tusk ivory (others of whale teeth) believed to have been crafted in Trondheim, Norway, during the 12th century and now housed in the British Museum. All the chess pieces are sculptures of human figures, except the pawns which are smaller, simple sculptures resembling carved gravestones. The knights are mounted on tiny horses holding spears and shields (foreground, bottom photo), and all of the human figures have decidedly glum expressions. Note the berserker rook (seen in sharpest focus in photo above), wild-eyed and biting his shield with battle fury.

Real arrow and spear points used by Vikings circa 900 AD.

The Vikings made wheels for their ox-carts and horse-drawn wagons out of solid oak--hubs, spokes, wheel and all.

Jim with Old Norse historian Per Linge discussing a famous Viking sea battle that took place between the Swedes and the Jomsvikings around the year 1000 AD.

Wisps of early morning fog hug the higher elevations.

A burial stone atop an early Bronze Age barrow.

Trolls attack!

The serene beauty of Sognefjord.

Jim with his Norwegian mountain guide, Brita. (The blurred finger seen in the lower left hand corner shows that this shot was definitely taken by a professional photographer.)

Some of the peaks in Jotunheimen, the Land of the Giants.

One of the many glaciers in Jotunheimen.

A silver-decorated Viking drinking horn.

A cool column depicting all of Norwegian history in Elvesaeter.

Another peak in Jotunheimen near Lom, Norway.

Jim halfway up the mountain (and out of breath) around 11pm at night.

One of the countless "turf roof" cabins still common today in Norway.

My guide Brita with a real Lapplander named Pil who was selling reindeer pelts and other souvenirs.

This is the hut where he lived. Although it was very rustic living miles from any running water or other conveniences, he did have satellite TV so as to never miss a World Cup game.

The carvings seen in the Viking era are truly extraordinary and a little scary too.

A real Viking war axe from around 912 A.D. When I looked at it and saw how sharp it was I could only wonder how many goats and sheep -- and men -- it actually helped to slaughter.

Real leather shoes preserved from the Viking era.

A dung fork, at lower left, and other wooden spades above it.

Here are some real Viking ships built between the years 815 and 890 AD. They were excavated in the late 1880's from farms in Vestfold, Norway, where centuries before they had been used as burial chambers. Archaeologists have determined that the Oseberg ship (at bottom), as it is now called, had been used as a grave ship for a woman of high rank, perhaps a queen, who died in 834 AD. The burial mound is believed to have been plundered by grave robbers in ancient times, since no jewelry or gold or silver objects were found in the grave. 22 meters in length, the ship was built of oak planks using the Old Norse ship-building technique known as "clinking." By its number of oar holes we can conclude that the ship was rowed by a crew of thirty men. The ship had no seats, and the oarsmen probably sat on their own wooden ship's chests. Like most other Viking ships of the era, the oars could be drawn in when the square sail was raised to catch the wind. The steering oar, or "rudder" (at top), was place
d on the right aft side of the ship -- the starboard side.


We also visited a historical site
just east of Fredrikstad, Norway, where Bronze Age petroglyphs from long, long ago can be found carved into the flat stones there. There was a downpour of rain the day we went. Modern scientists have painted the carvings red so that they can be more easily seen. Here are some photographs taken by my friend, film director Harald Zwart.