Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Armchair HNS Giveaway!

As promised, if you didn't have the opportunity to join us in Denver for the Historical Novel Society Conference, now's your chance to win some HELEN OF SPARTA swag!

I've got an autographed copy of HELEN OF SPARTA with your name on it, as well as #NAMEthatBUTT and Helen of Sparta magnets, NamethatButt stickers, and a Helen of Sparta bookmark to go along with it! (USA only!)

So what do you have to do to enter to win? What else but NAME THIS BUTT!

And I'll even give you a hint:
 
This Butt, the twin of another, is well known for its enjoyment of the hunt!
 
Enter your guess below in the rafflecopter and unlock the bonus entries, too, to increase your chances of winning, even if you guessed incorrectly! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We'll Return After These Messages

Dionysus/Bacchus and Ariadne,
at the National Gallery!
I'm going to be pretty busy in the next couple of weeks, between the Historical Novel Society conference in Denver and writing/rewriting/revising my last manuscript, so I'm taking a brief break from the blog! (ALL THE WORDS! SO much research! LOTS going on!)

But don't despair -- we'll be having a little game on the blog here for those of you who can't make it to Denver but might be interested in some of the fun swag I'll be bringing with me for the signing (Magnets! Bookmarks! Stickers! An autographed paperback copy of HELEN OF SPARTA!), so expect to see that pop up at the end of the month!

Otherwise, the blog will be back to its regularly scheduled programming August 5th or so! And we'll be talking about Theseus and Ariadne -- because no one can quite agree how all THAT went down, but I have some FEELINGS about it, personally, and where better to share them than here?

Happy Summer, and Safe Travels if you're coming out to Denver! I'm looking forward to seeing some of you there!




Available now!
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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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Romeo, Juliet, and That Trojan War Love Triangle

Romeo reminds me of Paris. His impulsive behavior, his flip-flop from agony over Rosaline to absolute adoration of Juliet. He wants to be noble, but somehow he just doesn't quite make it happen, and no matter what he decides to do, it all just goes terribly wrong.

Meynier - Helen and Paris
Helen and Paris
Charles Meynier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Rosaline becomes a very convenient Oenone-- the nymph-wife that Paris abandoned when Aphrodite offered him Helen-- and Mercutio (or Tybalt?) the tragic Hector, or perhaps he serves dual purpose as Patroclus as well, the accidental/confused death that causes the slaughter of so many more.

Juliet is the perfect Helen, already promised to another, and obedient to that calling, until she meets Romeo and her world is turned upside down. Ovid's Heroides paint us a clear picture of Helen's struggle not to love Paris, just as Juliet argues with herself while Romeo eavesdrops. Helen knows Paris is forbidden to her, knows she should not go to him, even takes offense to Paris' arguments that she should give him "satisfaction," as Romeo also suggests of Juliet ("wilt though leave me so unsatisfied?"). Romeo, like Paris, makes promises of marriage, implies that they will overcome the obstacles in their path, and with the blessing of a religious authority, ultimately persuades Juliet, but in the end it leads both of them into ruin -- and not only the two of them, either, but their friends and loved ones!

It's enough to make me wonder if the choice of the name Paris as Juliet's poor, overshadowed, suitor was meant to signal the intent of this play as a retelling of Helen and Paris's star-crossed love. Or perhaps the theme of star-crossed love, and the themes of that Trojan War Love Triangle are so common, so resonant, that any such tale will offer parallels, if the reader desires to find them.



Available now!
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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.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Hero (A Letter to Theseus)

Dear Theseus,

Can you even keep your own story straight? I would hate to be persuaded that you're a compulsive liar, and that's why your history got so screwed up, but how is it that no one can agree on which Amazon Queen you abducted married? Was it Hippolyta or Antiope? For that matter, were you with Heracles on that trip, or on your own? While I'm asking, was this Amazon Queen fighting for you or against you when the Amazons invaded Attica after you violated made off with their sovereign, got her pregnant, and then hooked up with Phaedra?

Plutarch swears up and down that your hook up with Phaedra was after the Amazon Queen's death, and the rest of those stories are just dirty lies, but he was writing a millenium after you supposedly lived, and frankly, I'm not sure I trust him not to fabricate a little truth here or there if it served his agenda, so what am I supposed to believe, here? I know that whole Ariadne business wasn't really your fault, Dionysus forced your hand, and I can even believe that the Phaedra and Hippolytus situation was the work of the gods and outside of your control, but seriously? You don't even remember the NAME of the woman who you stole, married and had a son with? I would think that if you loved her that much that you just HAD to have her, you'd at least take the time to get her name straight!

If you would be so kind as to straighten out this little misunderstanding for me, that would really make my life easier-- not to mention improve your reputation, because quite frankly, I think you're in danger of losing your heroic appeal. Real heroes remember the names of the women they fall in lust love with, after all! I'm SURE that it isn't REALLY your fault that these later historians/priests/entertainers/men couldn't be bothered to fact check the names involved, what with her being a mere woman, but it really does reflect poorly on your-- shall we say, charm? You might want to have your publicist look into it.

Your Biggest Fan,
Amalia




Available now!
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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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Not Without Theseus: A Hero's Propaganda

Theseus has a lot of adventures. He gets around a LOT, really, and gets all kinds of accolades that maybe, just maybe he doesn't entirely deserve. Stories, in fact, which one might even go so far as to consider... propaganda.

Theseus delivering a beat down. With a club.
image by Roland Longbow, via wiki commons
You see, there was this other hero back in the day. You might have heard of him -- that guy with the immense strength and the short fuse, likes the ladies, and goes by the name of Heracles? I mean, he was awesome. Sacked Troy all by his lonesome, went on ADVENTURES constantly, with his, ah, buddies. All those twelve labors with the bonus "get with all 50 of my daughters" 13th. Totally undefeated in all things except for Love. (Love conquers all, guys. Er. Or do I mean infidelity? So hard to keep them straight.)

Heracles was pretty stiff competition for anyone. But the Athenians -- they never settle for second best. Instead, they made Theseus a companion to Heracles on some of his most famous journeys. In fact, that went ahead and made Theseus a companion to everyone on their most famous journeys. They sent him off with Jason after the Golden Fleece, with Heracles against the Amazons, they sent his sons to Troy, even though they had totally been deposed by Menestheus when Theseus was run out of Athens upon his return from the Underworld. They inserted Theseus into so many stories, that he became his own expression: Not Without Theseus. Meaning, nobody got anything awesome done without the ATHENIAN hero himself. Not even Heracles!

So, Heracles had the 12 labors? Theseus had 6 of his own -- and conquered them before he'd even reached manhood! And!! After THAT, he liberated Athens from the subjugation of Minos by shipping out to Crete as tribute and killing the Minotaur. Yeah, okay, sure, maybe Heracles did kill snakes in his crib as an infant, but Theseus could have taken the easy route to Athens by sea, he didn't need a goddess to drive him into madness to become a hero, he made a deliberate choice to be all he could be! And he taught wrestling to the Greeks. And, he was so enlightened and just, he practically created DEMOCRACY!

Heracles? pfft. He just whaled on people with his club. All he had going for him was crude power. Theseus had brains as well as a club! Because Theseus is nothing if not a reflection of the virtues of Athens. A shining example of everything the Athenians believed in.

Now, I'm not saying Theseus didn't make with all the awesome -- but I am going to say this:

In other countries where the king sets up some additional governmental body to offer advice and maybe even make a few decisions on their own, while still remaining KING, himself, we don't call that a democracy. We call it a monarchy. In fact, Elective Monarchy might be the most fitting way of describing government in Theseus' day. And it wasn't special to Athens. In those days, nobody got to be king just because he was born a prince. Sure, it gave you a leg up, but if you didn't have the support of your people? Pfft.

Your days were numbered.

Even when you're Theseus, "bringer of democracy" and Hero of Attica.



Available now!
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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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writing Polypoetes, son of Pirithous

Perithoos Hippodameia BM VaseF272
Pirithous and Hippodamia
© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons
Among the men listed as suitors of Helen, and those named as leading ships to Troy, we find the footnote of Polypoetes, the son of Pirithous. Those of you who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I've done a lot of THINKING (and writing!) about Pirithous, and Polypoetes's mother, Hippodamia -- but until I started writing my last manuscript, I hadn't really considered their son.

It's funny how you can write two or three books about a character just for your own pleasure or entertainment, and then realize after the fact how desperately important it was for you to write those other books, so that when you sit down to write the thing you are writing at that moment, you have the background you need to tackle it. And that's kind of what happened for me with Polypoetes and this last manuscript. Because I was so caught up in the more familiar names and characters -- Odysseus, Ajax the Great, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Penelope, Castor and Pollux -- that I had overlooked Polypoetes as a part of the story I was writing. Until he was on top of me.

And I couldn't help but explore his perspective, just a little bit. Because here was the son of Theseus's best friend, Pirithous the instigator. Here was the son of the man who, by some accounts, provoked the entire Kidnap-of-Helen-and-Persephone adventures. Here was the son of the man who, one might argue, cost Theseus EVERYTHING, and by extension for my narrative, cost HELEN everything too. What kind of courage did it take him to march or sail himself to Sparta and present himself as a suitor to Helen? Or was it a matter of honor, itself? Was he there because of Helen's beauty, or was Helen's beauty just a happenstance, because he felt there was a debt that must be paid?

And what does he think about his father's adventures?  Or his father's reputation, generally, for that matter? What does he know, and how closely is he bound up in the affairs of Athens, and Theseus's family? Certainly he was old enough by the time HELEN OF SPARTA takes place that he could be left in Thessaly to rule in his father's place -- I imagine he was of a similar age to Hippolytus, Theseus's oldest (deceased) son. Were they friends? Does he grieve?

Fortunately for me, I knew Polypoetes's early history. I knew Pirithous and Hippodamia's story already, because I'd written their book just before. And I think that made giving Polypoetes a voice that much more attractive and inspiring. Because having known his parents, I wanted desperately now, to know their son.

I hope someday you'll get a chance to know him too!




Available Now!
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.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Podcast Adventure: Rocket Punch Radio, and Battles of the Gods

Last week I was interviewed on Rocket Punch Radio (Episode 6) where I got to talk about HELEN OF SPARTA, and which gods would win in some epic throw-downs (Zeus vs Odin? Everyone has an opinion!) I also talked a little bit about Paris of Troy, because it's pretty much impossible to write a book about Helen without stumbling over Paris's part in the whole thing -- thankfully I had recently re-educated myself on his history!




I had a great time recording this, and you should definitely give it a listen and let me know in the comments who YOU think would win if the gods battled it out!