On Vikings, Italian Grandmothers, and Wooden Spoons

Recently, a historical mystery has sparked a debate on Facebook between Kristen Lamb (Indie Author guru and Viking Goddess) and me. Namely, who weaponized the wooden spoon? Was it the Vikings or the Italian grandmother? Both parties are famed in both song and story for their ability to transform any benign object within arm’s reach into a deadly weapon. I began a quest to find the answer.

First, I turned to several noteworthy historians who have presented us with Viking lore. Famed British chroniclers who write under the collective pen name Monty Python have expounded on a wide swath of human history in a series of films, from the Biblical Life of Brian, to the medieval quest for the Holy Grail, and even the rather post-modern philosophical epic The Meaning of Life.


Within the scope of their work, Monty Python has delved into the world of Nordic civilization, as evidenced by their presentation of Njorl’s Saga. Within this Icelandic Saga, there is no mention, either visual or vocal, of a wooden spoon. However, it does confirm the ability of Vikings to turn any benign object into a weapon. In part III of Njorl’s Saga , Eric Njorl, the son of Frothgar… is charged with using “the big brown table down at the police station,” in a deadly manner. While “the big brown table” may be wooden, it is certainly not a spoon.

There can be no doubt as to the historic veracity of this most scholarly endeavor.

Then I searched through the archives of Monty Python’s American counterparts – the Looney Toons. Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny have delved into prehistoric times through the medieval and modern eras as well. In one particular grand opus, “What’s Opera, Doc?” the duo performs Wagner’s four cycle opera Der Ring; there is no mention of a wooden spoon. Elmer’s aria concerning his spear and magic helmet – not spoons – should lay all notions of wooden spoons within a Viking context to rest.

Finally, I turned to the Beatles, who referenced the Nordic part of Europe with the song “Norwegian Wood.” Despite the fact that Viking influence is vast in the British Isles, the wood described in the song was thrown on the fire, and never fashioned into a spoon. In the end, in all of literature and film, I could not find a single reference to Vikings using wooden spoons as weapons.

What About Italian Grandmothers?

At a dead end with the Vikings, I turned to the other side of the question.


I only found modern references to Italian grandmothers and wooden spoons (and shoes, and rolling pins). But I believe there is an indisputable case of cultural appropriation stemming from Italy. Fuhgeddabowt the Men in Black, for Italians there are the Women in Black. This may be the root of the old joke: What’s the difference between an Italian grandmother and an elephant? About 25 pounds and a black dress. 🙂

Let me explain. In the old days, Italian women who did not wed most likely became nuns – women in black. From their roots in Italy, nuns and the convent culture have since spread throughout the world. Whether a nun is in France, Germany, Britain, the U.S., or South America, their prowess with using rulers as weapons is legendary. Survivors of Catholic education readily show their scars and even compete with each other concerning their number and intensity.

I find it highly probable that Italian grandmothers found the ruler to be so effective that they instituted similar punishment in their homes, using the closest thing they had on hand – the wooden spoon.


Hooked by Les Edgerton

I’m somewhat selective when it comes to craft books. Sometimes I feel like most Indie-Authors spend more time reading craft books on writing than they do writing. And let’s not forget about the money spent. As for self-help books for authors, I have a scant but awesome collection. I usually spend a lot of time reading blogs, taking notice of titles mentioned, and then taking aim for that special book.

My first chapter was bugging me. After we (The Queen and I) would edit about eight chapters, we’d discover something new and start all over again. Well, I can comfortably say that now I feel as if we’ve finally “got it.” Yes, the “Queen” and I were doing an awesome job, but we were still treating the first chapter like any other…big mistake, and thank God we had the intuition not to publish.

I took one of Kristen Lamb’s on-line seminars concerning “Your First Five Pages.” As I look back upon the seminar, it was very informative and helpful. Later, she made a blog post about first chapters and recommended “Hooked” by Les Edgerton.


Like a vigilant and eager student, I clicked over to Amazon and purchased Edgerton’s “Hooked,” and a copy Kristen Lamb’s “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a digital world” (still reading this one).

After reading “Hooked,” everything that Kristen explained during the seminar became crystal clear. I guess I needed time to absorb at my own pace. After all, I haven’t been a student for a millennium or two…well maybe three. O.k. you can stop laughing at me now. 🙂

Within Hooked by Les Edgerton, the “crafty” author-coach will explain to you the importance of an opening line, the first page, the first plot points, and yes, how they all coagulate into a rockin’ first chapter. Also, how to introduce a character, and the incredibly sticky subject concerning backstory, i.e., when to use it and when to avoid it.

On another note, Edgerton delivers with a style that keeps you reading and entertained. It would seem that he took his own advice.:-) Let’s face it; this subject in the wrong hands could turn drier than dust faster than a teenager can answer a text-message. But with Edgerton, the read is smooth sailing.

I can give “Hooked” by Les Edgerton a hearty and well-deserved recommendation. Also, you should check out Kristen Lamb’s blog and take one of her classes too.

What are some of your favorite writing-craft books?

My Favorite Author Blogs

I do a lot of cruising around the Blogosphere, dropping “likes” and comments in many places. However, I find myself repeatedly returning to certain blogs over and over again.

Although they are all Independent author blogs, you’ll find distinct voices and points of view. Yes, occasionally they will blog about the same particular subject, just not at the same time. After all, they’re all authors and discuss the Indie-Author World. It’s a sure bet that when you dig through the archives you’ll find posts on editing, “pantsing” or planning, and others.

I Blog About These Subjects As Well

I have never referred to myself or have tried to portray myself as some type of self-publishing guru. I’m not one. Therefore, I don’t do it. I basically discuss my journey and blog about the things I’m discovering and learning along the way, as evidenced by such categories as Diary of a Fantasy Novel, Short Story Journal, and The Writing Journey. I also like to drift away from craft posts and write about an array of subjects in Idaho Scrawl, or simply present personal anecdotes and my favorite Recipes.

The folks listed below are not braggarts. However, they have achieved a particular level of notoriety for offering quality advice or “how to” procedures for authors. Most of them have a smooth and friendly style that makes one feel welcomed to read and comment.


Photo Credit and CC License

Here Are My Favorites

Kristen Lamb

If Independent authors have a Torch-Bearing –Warrior-Queen it would have to be Kristen Lamb. She writes passionately about the world according to the indie author. Granted, the posts are quite extensive, but they are well worth your attention. Kristen has a few self-help books out there for indie authors. Rise of the Machines is probably the most well-known and important book on the topic of indie-authoring.

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland’s Blog is called “Helping Writers Become Authors.” That blog title is no lie; it is completely packed with quality information. I truly suggest opening the category button to discover the smorgasbord of pertinent subjects. The choice is yours. You can comb through this blog, or spend hundreds of dollars on craft books.

Bryn Donovan

Here’s another blog where the archives should be the first place to examine. Her “Blank Page to Final Draft” series of posts are worth reading. Also, there are lists for plots, facial and physical descriptions. She has written a craft book as well called “Master Lists for Writers,” you can find links to Amazon on her blog. I have only recently discovered this blog. However, it pulled me right in.

Nick Rossis

Nick writes about a variety of subjects, including some personal anecdotes. His blog category on marketing is a must read for any would be indie. Look no further than the list of awards for his fantasy novels to understand that this guy knows what he’s talking about.

Diane Tibert

First, in order to appreciate her blog, you’ll have to get past the colour and flavour of her exotic Canadian English :-). Diane’s “Publishing 101” series takes you from editing to cover design. I would say that it’s a good first place to start your research. Yes, she has many other tips for authors.

Honorable Mentions

Chris: The Story Reading Ape

Chris has turned re-blogging into an art form. He’ll save you tons of search and reading time by finding quality posts from authors around the world. I found Bryn Donovan only about a week and a half ago. How? Because Chris re-blogged and highlighted one of her posts. Do yourself a big favor and “Follow” this one.

Ben Garrido

Ben is an indie author, but his posts mostly offer questions and examinations of nationalism, culture, government, and religion. Perhaps I’m drawn to his postings on account of my degree in History and my Catholic faith. Many of the stories in my forthcoming collection have themes of conflicting beliefs, or what happens when the relationship between government and the individual goes awry. Ben’s scholarly posts are thought provoking and very well written.

What About You?

Do you already follow some or all of these blogs? Did I miss a great blog somewhere? Tell me about it.

***Ernesto San Giacomo is the author of Ragged Souls***

Synchronicity in Surreal Advertising

I just read a blog post by Kristen Lamb that calls for an end of spam advertising by Indie authors. I’m sure you’ve experienced this phenomenon on #Facebook and #Twitter. She says that we should start partaking in a new form of marketing and promotion called “Padvertising.” Since most readers are women, it should come as no surprise that Padvertising means to promote your book on panty liners.

Despite the humorous and Monty Python-esque nature of the idea, reading it brought back a memory.

You can’t see me typing away on my keyboard, but I have placed a hand on the Bible and promise to tell the whole truth.


Photo by Andre Chinn Used under CC License

One day in January 2001 I was waiting for my girlfriend to arrive at Penn Station in NYC. She was a total nympho and I was eagerly anticipating a week of debauchery with her (see, I promised to tell the truth). While waiting for her train to arrive, and after two or three cups of coffee, I needed to relieve the old bladder.

I went into the men’s room and approached the urinal, and boy was I surprised at what I saw. On the plastic screen inside the urinal was an advertisement. I do not remember the name of the investment firm or the phone number, but I do remember the rest of the ad.

“Stop pissing your money away! Call Johnson Investments (212) 555-1234”

There I was, chuckling and snorting while standing at a urinal in a public men’s room. Luckily nobody punched me. Thanks, Kristen, for helping me to dredge up this memory.

So what’s the most oddball / comical form of advertising that you’ve ever seen?