Thursday, December 17, 2020

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway - Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir by Sverrir Sigurdsson with Veronica Li

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir by Sverrir Sigurdsson with Veronica Li. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a great guest post about Iceland from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway to win a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more content. Enjoy!
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Title: Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir
Author: Sverrir Sigurdsson with Veronica Li
Publisher: Mascot Books
Publication Date: November 3rd 2020
Print Length: 284 pages
Genre: Autobiography/Memoir
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This vivacious personal story captures the heart and soul of modern Iceland. Born in Reykjavik on the eve of the Second World War, Sverrir Sigurdsson watched Allied troops invade his country and turn it into a bulwark against Hitler’s advance toward North America. The country’s post-war transformation from an obscure, dirt-poor nation to a prosperous one became every Icelander’s success. Spurred by this favorable wind, Sverrir answered the call of his Viking forefathers, setting off on a voyage that took him around the world.

**The eBook is only $1.99 during this tour!**

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EXCERPT:
One memorable incident took place [in 1968] during our drive through Anbar province in Iraq. The place was unheard of when I motored through, but after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, this Sunni stronghold of Saddam Hussein’s became world renowned for insurgency and suicide bombings. Even during my days, traveling in this neighborhood was dicey. While guessing my way through the desert of Al Anbar, we passed a ghastly sight. It was the charred remains of what looked like a small industrial complex. The scene evoked news articles about an Israeli air raid on an Iraqi nuclear research facility. I knew we shouldn’t be there, but there was no other way out than to keep driving. Soon after, a military patrol pulled up alongside. I stopped the car, and we all got out to show them exactly who we were, a family of dumb, lost foreigners.

A soldier peered into my car. He started shouting angrily in Arabic, his finger jabbing at the camera on the back seat. They hustled us all back into the Peugeot, I in the driver’s seat, Monika next to me, while Steinn shared the back seat with the soldier. I felt something hard poke at my spine. I glanced at the rearview mirror and realized the object was the muzzle of the soldier’s machine pistol. The drive lasted an hour at most, but it seemed like eternity. To prevent an accidental burst from the gun, I took it slow and easy on the desert tracks.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Sverrir Sigurdsson grew up in Iceland and graduated as an architect from Finland in 1966. He pursued an international career that took him to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the U.S. His assignments focused on school construction and improving education in developing countries. He has worked for private companies, as well as UNESCO and the World Bank. He is now retired and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and coauthor, Veronica.

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Veronica Li emigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong as a teenager. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. She has worked as a journalist and for the World Bank, and is currently a writer. Her three previously published titles are: Nightfall in Mogadishu, Journey across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman’s Search for Home, and Confucius Says: A Novel

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GUEST POST:
Fascinating (and some little known) facts about my home country, Iceland
by Sverrir Sigurdsson


Tourism in Iceland exploded during the past decade, topping two million visitors in 2018. The COVID-19 outbreak has put a pause on the industry, but after reducing its cases to almost zero in June 2020, Iceland has reopened its doors to foreign tourists. 

For those interested in the country and perhaps plan to visit, here are some fascinating facts.

Geology. Iceland is literally cracked in the middle. This is where subterranean forces tear apart two overlapping tectonic plates, the Eurasian and North American. You can see the upheaval shortly after you land. As you drive out of the airport, you’ll see a lunar landscape of lava fields and fissures on both sides of the highway. But the fault is much more spectacular at Thingvellir, some 30 miles from Reykjavik. Millions of tourists have walked through this rift canyon surrounded by magnificent walls of lava rocks. The tectonic crack widens by about two inches every year, adding annually about 6 acres to the land area. Iceland is the only country in the world that is expanding its territory and none of its neighbors feels threatened. 

First Parliament in the World. Thingvellir is also the venue of the world’s oldest parliament. Starting in 930 AD, chieftains had met there once a year to establish laws and settle disputes. Nothing can be grander than a leader standing on the Law Rock, a natural platform at the top of the ridge, announcing the decisions made by Parliament. 

Population. In the late nineth century, Vikings from today’s Norway and Denmark settled in an uninhabited island, which they named Iceland. Most of the settlers were men, but they abducted women from Ireland and the now British isles to help them populate the island. The Icelandic population currently stands at about 350,000.

Language. Icelandic has changed remarkably little since settlement. It’s the root of Scandinavian languages as Latin is the root of Romance languages. While the physical isolation of the country was a factor, the principal reason is that the Icelandic language is set in ink, in the form of the Sagas, a collection of historical accounts written in the 13th and 14th centuries. This is the first collection of Scandinavian text written in the local language about local people. For centuries, storytellers traveled from farm to farm to recount these written stories, an entertainment like watching TV. 

Volcanoes with Short Names. Beware of Icelandic volcanoes with two-syllable names such as Laki, Hekla, and Katla. The one named Eldgjá is the champion of all volcanoes. It erupted in AD 939, setting the world’s record for the amount of basaltic lava spewed (18 cubic kilometers). To put that into perspective, I calculated that this could cover the entire state of Virginia with a six-inch-thick layer. Laki comes as a serious runner-up with a disastrous eruption of 14 cubic kilometers in 1783-84. The last Icelandic flare up that grabbed international attention was the six-syllable Eyjafjallajökull. Although it disrupted trans-Atlantic flights in 2010, among Iceland’s volcanos it’s just a mole hill of little consequence. 

Economic Transformation. In a matter of a few decades, Iceland was transformed from one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the richest. Throughout the ages, Iceland had been an obscure, dirt-poor pile of rocks. The Second World War changed all that. After Hitler invaded Norway, Allied nations realized that Iceland, situated in the middle of the North Atlantic, was one of the last defenses against German advance toward America. Britain, followed by the U.S and Canada, sent troops to occupy the island and turned it into a fortress. As a result, the Icelandic economy boomed from the construction and other war activities.

This good fortune continued during the Cold War. Both the Soviet Union and the US wooed the strategically important island. The US established a navy base in Keflavik, the site of today’s international airport. Planes from the base played cat-and-mouse games with Soviet submarines attempting to slip into the world’s oceans through the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-UK) gap. Tom Clancy’s thriller The Hunt for Red October describes this phenomenon well.

Taking advantage of this favorable climate, Iceland invested in its natural resources. It turned waterfalls and hot springs into green energy, which supported the establishment of energy-hungry industries, aluminum in particular. In recent years, millions of tourists around the world have discovered the natural beauty of Iceland. They enjoy not only nature but also first-class facilities. Little can they imagine that not that long ago, Icelanders were living in primitive turf houses.
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GIVEAWAY:
Sverrir Sigurdsson and Veronica Li will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to one randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. To increase your chance of winning, leave a comment at a different stop on the tour each day. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

51 comments:

  1. Very happy to be here to talk about my adventures in Iceland and around the world. Don't miss my guest post on fascinating facts about Iceland.

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    1. The excerpt is about my road trip in the Middle East shortly after the Six Day War with Israel. Not the safest place to drive around in, but I was a fearless young Viking then.

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    1. Iceland is famous for its scenery, but it has many other fascinating features, as shown in my guest post. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. My husband & I would love to read this book! It is very difficult to find a book that appeals to both of us!

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    1. Perhaps it's because the book is written by a husband-and-wife team! Veronica and I can't be more different, but our different strengths and weaknesses are what make the collaboration work.

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  5. thanks this sounds like an amazing read

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    1. I like to link my personal experiences with events of the time. I believe each one of us is part of a bigger story. Thanks for your interest.

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  6. This sounds like a very interesting book.

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    1. I tell a human interest story about my family, my people, and how they shaped me. Iceland is known for its gorgeous scenery, but it has a very interesting history and culture as well.

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    1. Yes, I'm very proud of the cover too. It's an aerial photo of the southernmost area in Iceland where I spent summers working on a farm from age 9-14. The border is a Viking motif carving that I made when I was 12.

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  8. Replies
    1. From the time we got serious about the project, it took us 3 years to produce a presentable draft. Took us another 2 to find a publisher and get it to the finish line during a pandemic. Definitely a labor of love.

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  9. This sounds like a very good book.

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    1. Thanks. I grew up reading Icelandic sagas about the lives and loves of the early settlers 1000 years ago. I think of my story as a new chapter.

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  10. looks like a fun one

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    1. Veronica and I had fun writing it. I think a hallmark of a good memoir is the ability to laugh at oneself. And there's plenty of oddities about me to laugh at.

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  11. sounds like a fun one

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  12. Great cover thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. Glad you like the cover. Iceland is full of spectacular scenery like that.

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  13. I like the cover. It has very nice artwork.

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

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    1. Thank you. Please note that in the back of the photo is the volcano Eyjafjallajokull (don't try to pronounce it), famous for stopping international air traffic for a week in 2010.

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  14. Very interesting post, I enjoyed reading the little known facts about Iceland!

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    1. Just remember, if you hear about an Icelandic volcano with a short name erupting, it means big trouble.

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  15. Thanks for hosting and for all the comments.

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  16. Your book sounds really interesting. If we can't travel for real at this time, at least we can have wonderful armchair travels via reading great books!

    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Oh yes, armchair travel is good. Reading about a place also gives you the inside story of its people, history and culture. It's like getting to know the locals.

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  17. David HollingsworthDecember 17, 2020 at 7:57 PM

    How did you come up with the story?

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    1. I lived it, and my wife, who's a published author, helped me shape my memories into a coherent story about the making of a modern Viking and his adventures.

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  18. Really neat to learn about your book.

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    1. My story is a good example of the connection between biography and history. It's good to know we're part of something bigger.

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  19. nice book cover and the book sounds interesting.

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    1. The book cover is a photo of a prime tourist attraction in south Iceland. The geological features in the picture are remnants of submarine or sub-glacial volcanic activity.

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  20. Replies
    1. That's what my wife thought when she read my first draft. She said, "Sverrir, you've had an interesting life!" From then on she helped me pull my memories together into a memoir.

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    1. It was dangerous to drive around Iraq back in the 1960s but even more dangerous now. I'm glad I lived to tell the tale.

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  22. My husband would love this book. He visits Iceland yearly. I'm gonna goo with him next time,.

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  23. I don't know much about Iceland but I'm sure it's amazing!

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  24. This sounds like an interesting book.

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  25. The excerpt is interesting. Thank you for sharing it.

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  26. I think of disruptive volcanoes in the Pacific but Iceland's are intense too. Thank you for putting the amount of lava from the 939 eruption into perspective.

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  27. Oooo, I love the cover photo! I reminds me of the stone bridge in Santa Cruz county, CA, before it fell down.

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  28. I'm just curious, do Icelanders have any Christmas treats (mince pie made from wild game, for example?)

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  29. This books sounds so interesting! Would like to read this.

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  30. This is such a fascinating book!

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