Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Helen, Theseus, and the Mythic Seeds of Discord

The conflicts between Sparta and Athens run deep and long, and as we all know from reading Homer and Herodotus, it was the habit of the ancient world to take common ideas and issues along with common ways-of-doing-things and reflect those back onto the struggles of their heroes in myth. Perhaps then, it would be stranger if Sparta and Athens did not have anything to fight over during the age of heroes.

What if, in part, this was the purpose of Theseus' abduction of Helen in the myths?

Theseus Helene Staatliche Antikensammlungen 2309 n2
Helen and Theseus
via wikimedia commons
The House of Atreus was known to be cursed, after all, and I have no trouble believing that if Theseus made an honest offer of marriage to Tyndareus and it was refused in favor (either in fact, or by assumption) of Menelaus and Mycenae, Athens would find that snub very offensive indeed. How dare Sparta insult their hero by choosing a cursed man as the husband of Helen over Theseus?

But that wouldn't be all. You see, the conflict goes both ways. Say that, in retaliation of this snub, or even just for funsies, Theseus chooses to take what he wants after all. He's deserving. Certainly he is, by pedigree, a better match for Helen than Menelaus could ever be. Theseus is a son of Poseidon, a (for the moment) successful and powerful king, and a hero equal only to Heracles. Add into the equation the dodgy influence of piratical Pirithous, and it's easy to see how Theseus might be persuaded to pursue Helen without her father's consent. Even to go so far as to kidnap her (because it isn't like he hasn't whisked women off before--and that kind of behavior was well established by Heracles, and even more established by the behavior of the gods who did that kind of thing with great regularity. Helen herself is a product of this same entitlement, after all!).

Sparta, taking great offense by the kidnap of their princess and HEIR, sends off their best to get her back. Helen's brothers, Castor and Pollux--the Dioscuri--find her if not in Athens, at the very least, under the power of Theseus, possibly even violated by him! I can't imagine Sparta not being highly insulted and infuriated by such a thing, and these Greeks-- they know how to hold a grudge.

Take into account the fact that in the process of Helen's retrieval, Castor and Pollux upset the inheritance of Athens by putting their own man on the throne, and you've got an even greater recipe for long-standing conflict. Sparta has just added insult to injury by meddling in Athens' politics. You don't even need Athens to have been insulted by the choosing of Menelaus over Theseus first (though I will say that I find that to be pretty compelling).

In this one story, a relative latecomer to the drama and tragedy of Helen of Troy, the seeds of enmity between Sparta and Athens have been sewn. These Myths, after all, are the ancient Greek way of explaining the whys and wherefores.

So, why are Sparta and Athens constantly finding reasons to dispute with one another? Well you see, once long ago, there was a girl named Helen....



Available April 1, 2015 
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.





Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Friday, March 20, 2015

TAMING FATE is FREE for kindle This Weekend Only!

If you've been waiting for a chance to get a taste of the Fate of the Gods series before you dive in -- this is your chance! TAMING FATE, my 15th century historical fantasy novella is FREE this weekend for Kindle!

Not sure if you're ready to commit to free until you know more about the novella? Here's the back cover copy:

For the first time in her many lives, Eve would rather be anywhere but home. 

In 15th Century France, Eve would have burned as a witch if it hadn’t been for the too-timely arrival of the Marquis DeLeon to save her skin. But Eve didn’t ask to be rescued, and their hasty marriage is off to anything but a smooth start. As tensions in the town grow and plague threatens, Ryam DeLeon knows if he and Eve cannot find common ground, their first Christmas may be their last.
STILL not sure?
How about a snippet?
“The crowd will thin after they’ve seen you,” Ryam murmured against her ear as he helped her from his carriage. She had not been quite prepared for such a crowd of men and women, and for a moment she remembered the mob which had come to her house in Avignon, demanding her father give her up…

She blinked and the angry mob became a host of excited faces, hoping to catch her eye. Some of the tension eased, her stomach unknotting.

“Not more than half of them will stay,” Ryam was saying, “and the children will be sent to their beds, to be sure.” He drew a pouch from inside his houppelande, and held it out to her. “Gold pieces for the children. For the Christmas goose.”

“My lady!” a mother called, holding her child tight to her chest. “My lady, please, your blessings for my son!”

Ryam smiled reassurance. “They had despaired of my ever finding a bride at all, I think, after my mother died. You would have liked her. It was her idea to start giving the people gold instead of silver.”

That was something Jesus would have appreciated, too. She took one of the coins from the pouch, frowning at it. What should have been the King’s coat of arms was instead a lion’s head, with not a fleur-de-lis to be found at all, only an odd shaped hammer on the back. If she hadn’t known any better, she would have thought it some pagan symbol. “But this is no écu.”

“The House of Lions has struck its own coins since the time of Charlemagne, though we pay our taxes in ingots,” Ryam explained, guiding her toward the women and children, lined up neatly and waiting for their coins. “We are so isolated in the mountains and so disinterested in the affairs of Europe, the king does not fear we will compete against his own currencies and very few of our Lions reach his coffers, besides.”

She gave a coin to the boy belonging to the woman who had called to her, and pressed a kiss to the child’s forehead. Beside her, Ryam did much the same, touching a little girl’s head, squeezing a boy’s shoulder, reassuring a grief-stricken widow and her twin daughters that they would not lose their farm if they could not make the rents. He might have believed they had come to see her, but a word from their Marquis, who knew them each by name, was the reason they left with their heads held higher and shoulders unbowed. Their concerns had been heard, their fears eased. She began to wonder if they had not wished to see her, only to reassure themselves that marriage had not changed their lord.

“My lady,” a young girl said softly. “If you could—me brother’s home sick in his bed, too ill even to do more than moan in his sleep. Me ma said that I might ask for an extra piece of gold, for a doctor to come see to him.”

She glanced at Ryam, but they’d been separated by so many people, all she could find of him was his blue and gold sleeve. If the boy was truly that sick, the family had probably waited too long for what passed for healing now to save him. She pressed her lips together, crouching down before the small, ash-haired girl, taking the hand held out to her.

“Tell me how it began. Was it a cough or a sore throat or aches in his body?”

“His neck hurt, my lady. That’s what he said. And then under his arms, too. Sometimes he lies in his blankets and shakes and shudders, his tongue lolling like he’s possessed. Me mam keeps him all covered, neck to toes and says we aren’t allowed near him. But his face was so dirty—I tried to wash it but the dirt is stuck to his nose.”

A chill slipped down her spine, and she swallowed against the tight ball of fear rising from her stomach. Plague. The boy had the plague. “Take me to him. At once.”


And while you're over yonder on Amazon, don't forget that HELEN OF SPARTA is a kindle first title this month! You can grab the ebook NOW before it's official release on April 1st!  And/Or! There's a fabulous Goodreads giveaway hosted by my publisher in which you could win one of TWENTY paperback copies of HELEN OF SPARTA!

As always, if you enjoy reading ANY of my books, please do consider writing a review on Amazon/Goodreads, so that other people can find and enjoy them too!



Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kinship and Greek Heroes

One of the things I find really fascinating in Classical Mythology is the familial bonds between heroes and how little emphasis is placed upon them. It's so strange to think of these other heroes as siblings and cousins to one another. So often we don't have any understanding of those bonds in the stories that surround them. Pirithous and Theseus are an exception, in some respects, since we know from more than one source that they were like brothers -- but their relationship doesn't have anything to do with their shared lineage or the idea that they're cousins. They bond over their perceptions of one another as honorable and equals in strength and cunning and bravery.

We never hear about Heracles calling up his half-brothers or sisters, or really forming relationships with his blood-relatives on his divine side. Sure, he might have buddied up with Theseus to hit on the Amazons, and there's that whole Jason and the Argonauts thing, about which we will not speak, but even when Euripides showcases the friendship between Theseus and Heracles, there isn't any mention of their familial bond. They were friends and heroes in arms, but not explicitly spoken of as cousins, either.

Of course some of the heroes are from different generations, and not at all contemporaries -- like Pirithous and Perseus, for example, or Heracles and Perseus* -- so in that case, it's a lot less strange that there's no mention of any relationship they might have shared. But Pirithous and Heracles were contemporaries AND brothers, and I'm not sure I know a single myth in which they cross paths at all. So as I read, and write, I wonder: what might Pirithous have thought of his famous brothers, living and dead? Did he consider them kin at all? And if not, why not? And did Theseus consider Pirithous to be his cousin as well as his best friend?

These are things I love exploring in fiction -- and the relationship between Theseus and Pirithous is definitely a part of HELEN OF SPARTA that I wouldn't want to do without!

I grabbed some academic insight on twitter, if you're as interested in these thoughts as I am!


*Perseus is actually an ancestor of Heracles as well as his brother. Alcmene, Heracles' mother was Perseus' granddaughter. So in this case, one would think there would be even more of an acknowledgment of that family connection. But. Not so much. Then again maybe being the great-grandfather and brother of Perseus crossed some incestual line of weirdness for the Greeks, so they just kind of tried to ignore it.


Available April 1, 2015 
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.





Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Notes from the (Writing/Revision) Cave

I'm over half-way through drafting my first BRAND NEW BOOK of the year -- Historical Fiction set in the Bronze Age and it may or may not involve both Odysseus and Polypoetes, among others -- which made the revisions I was doing on TAMER OF HORSES (Hippodamia and Pirithous's book!) a lot easier to handle, since they're both in the same world. And you'd think that this being my THIRD manuscript set in Bronze Age Greece, I'd have the research part out of the way.

The Abduction of Hippodamia
(photo by me or possibly el husband.)
You'd be wrong, because every book has different research requirements and elements that maybe the previous one two three didn't. But you'd think that. Heck, sometimes even I think it. And then something like this happens and I am reminded of my place in the order of the universe.

Last month I got mightily derailed (many hours spent squinting at tiny text) in my revisions for TAMER by the researching of burial and funerary rites of Mycenaean Greece* since I realized hadn't dealt with mass numbers of dead before previously, and I should probably check my assumptions. Needless to say, they were totally wrong. So now I have to decide if I want to follow Homer (because my books are fundamentally related to and leading up to the Trojan War and the myths surrounding it, and if I follow Homer, I stay consistent), or if I want to stick to the archaeological record, at Homer's expense.

If this book were a stand alone one off (it's kind of a companion/prequel) then it would be a non-issue. I could go historical all the way. But because it isn't... the decision is maybe not so straightforward. Either way, though, I need to know what the archaeological record tells us about burials and funerary rites, and I need to be purposeful in either choosing to uphold that element, or sticking with Homer, instead. Purposeful changes, properly noted, explained, and/or justified in an author's note are far more forgivable than accidental-I-didn't-realize-my-assumptions-were-totally-wrong inclusions!

And before this particular revision-derailing-event? Aegean Bronze Age Medicine. Which. *I* was pretty surprised/impressed by, personally. There were definitely worse times to be alive.

*which contrary to what Homer would have you believe, do NOT involve cremation -- but I'll be posting more about that with some links to interesting articles on the topic over at blog.amaliacarosella.com in the nearish future (mid-April)! Posting has picked up over yonder. Because HELEN OF SPARTA!!!! 



Available April 1, 2015 
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.





Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Theseus and the Bronze Age Definition of Hero

Thiseasathens
By Shadowgate [CC BY 2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
In the Bronze Age, the definition of Hero was very different. The raiding and the stealing women and the warlording, the pirating. It's something we've touched on quite a bit on the blog in relation to Pirithous, particularly. But what about Theseus?

At a later age, Theseus was known both for his kindness to women and his kindness to slaves and the weak, and I've always felt that Theseus' myths reveal a great contradiction, even inside his own character, between what was considered heroic in that time period, and how he behaved -- for example, his abandonment of Ariadne (while perfectly in line with heroics of the time) doesn't really jive with his creation of this feast day to honor the women who lent him her cow in order to tame the bull at Marathon, and the way he continued to honor her in perpetuity for her help. Would a man who repays that small help from a woman so grandly repay Ariadne for HER sacrifice and aid so cruelly as to abandon her without a moment's thought or regret?

I have a hard time reconciling it, personally, which is why I think keeping the gods in these myths is so important. Without the hands of the gods manipulating and abusing these heroes, their actions make so much less sense. Their *characters* make so much less sense.

Yes, Theseus must prove himself, and there are plenty of ways in which he does so in a way that is related more to self-sacrifice than self-service. Yes, his primary motivation is to preserve the memory of his name, to build reputation and be known. But Theseus takes up this call differently than, say, Heracles. He doesn't just go about looting and pirating for the sake of looting and pirating. He clears the Isthmus road of the monstrous villains who lurk upon it, making the way safe for travelers and trade. He goes to Crete to liberate Athens. He even gives up some small measure of his power as king to allow for his people to have a say in their governance, if the Theseus as the Father of Democracy is to be believed. These are the things Theseus is known for, the way in which his name is remembered.

No matter what the meaning of hero was in the bronze age (or the Homeric age), these are all still remarkable achievements, and it opens the door to allow for a slightly different KIND of hero, for that period. (With Pirithous at his side to remind us of all the less savory meanings of the word Hero, of course. The braggarting, the swagger, the arrogance and righteous belief that anything you had the strength to take was yours to make off with, the glory without consideration for anyone else, at the expense of everyone else.) Theseus would NEVER have sat out during the Trojan war, and let his fellow soldiers die just because his prize was stolen from him, and the slight to his honor as a result. But then again, Theseus would probably not have served under Agamemnon to begin with. (Would Agamemnon even have been able to hold so much influence, to be the warlord he was, if Theseus had still been King of Athens?)

But is it any wonder that the Athenians would latch on to these virtues? That Theseus would possess the seeds for them, when he is THEIR hero, particularly. The answer to Heracles. I mean, we can sit here and debate the chicken or the egg -- which came first, and what does it mean for the actuality and historicity of Theseus, King of Athens. Did the Athenians read all of these virtues back into their hypothetical founding father, or did he possess these virtues to begin with, and those ideals carried forward through the ages, a lasting mark of his reign?

For myself, I want to believe the latter. I want to believe that Athens developed as it did (in contrast to Sparta and the other city-states) BECAUSE there was some seed planted by those early kings. That Theseus came first, and the rest followed.



Available April 1, 2015 
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.





Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Thursday, March 05, 2015

On Writing and Goals

This picture* has nothing to do with anything
except wow so much snow this year!
I recently switched up my writing game. Previously, I was writing with a daily minimum word count in mind. 7 days a week, no allowance for a weekend, just write the minimum (usually 1000 words, though on days when El Husband was home I would settle for 500) EVERY DAY.

Daily writing had worked for me in the past -- it's a great habit to form and I wanted to keep it up, because I'm a firm believer that as a writer, discipline is my friend. The only problem with the daily wordcount minimum? The stress. I had constant writer guilt. "I should be writing" was my refrain at all times, and there was even a certain amount of resentment toward anything that took me away from getting my words in (social activities, errands, meals, ANYthing!) It didn't account for off days, or needing to recharge with a good book, or achy wrists or anything that might mean I needed some down time. And even if I got my minimum daily words in, I felt like a slacker. On a good day, when I'm really into my book and in the middle of a scene full of dialogue, I can write 1000 words in an hour. Easy peasy. But of course that wasn't good enough. I needed to keep working. Because 1000 words a day is not FAST enough, for me, when I know I'm capable of killing a first draft in 6-8 weeks, if I really put my mind to it and abandon all other distractions/life. Which meant I wasn't committing, even if I had the discipline of the daily writing. I didn't feel like I was putting my mind to the job.

This January, I changed that. Instead of giving myself a daily minimum, I'm now giving myself a WEEKLY word count goal, and including a two-day weekend in my plans. I aim for 10,000 words for the week, generally with the expectation of writing 2000 words for five days. 2000 words a day is more of a challenge. If I'm not in the middle of an easy scene, or I have to do research, or I'm up against a wall with the manuscript, I can GENERALLY still push through to 2000 words (or more!), but I feel like I'm accomplishing something significant and building momentum. And when I get ahead early in the week, it means that on my Friday (which is Saturday because we keep strange hours at the House of Dillin), I can kick back a little bit early, if I want to, and enjoy my evening doing something social. It makes the social activities and the relaxing a reward for a week's hard work, instead of an interruption to my workflow.

The writer guilt? It's minimized. Of course I still have some days, particularly if I don't make it to 2K and it's the start of my week, where I feel like I should be killing myself to get more words in and write instead of letting my brain work things out while I focus my attention elsewhere (sometimes that's the only way to break through and figure out what comes next!), but my goal is weekly, so I have room for those less productive days, particularly when I write more on the days when I'm in the groove.

And man, it is so much less stressful, knowing I have the weekend to kick back and relax and not think about whatever is driving me crazy within my manuscript. I have two whole days for my brain to work on things in the background while I just have fun, and I come back to work on Tuesday (my Monday) feeling refreshed and ready to go. Two days of guilt-free, stress-free bliss.

So far, it's working like a charm. But I'm curious -- how do the rest of you schedule your writing time? Daily? Weekly? Monthly goals?
*Photo taken by and belongs to me!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble