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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Heroes of BY HELEN'S HAND: Bronze Age Greece

***Don't forget to Enter to Win 1 of 20 paperback copies of BY HELEN'S HAND on Goodreads!***

Since it's been a while, and most of my posts relating to the research and reading I did to write HELEN OF SPARTA and BY HELEN'S HAND are buried in the archives, I thought it might be a good idea to bring some of them back to your attention, hero by hero and topic by topic, so when May 10th rolls around, you'll be as ready to read as I was to write!  

NB: The Myths are the Myths, but most of these posts will include my perspectives and approaches to them, which could be spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution! 

Okay, so maybe it's a little bit of a stretch to refer to the period as a hero -- but! historical period and setting certainly play a major role in how the story unfolds! In revisiting Theseus and Pirithous, we've already talked about how heroism among the Greeks was different than our definition and expectation of it today (and how, in my most humble opinion, this makes Theseus unique in comparison to someone like Heracles or Pirithous) but there's more to the Bronze Age than Heroics!

Firstly, let's talk about geography!

We take for granted the incredible accuracy of our maps today -- but for Helen and Theseus, and their fellow bronze age heroes, the shape of the world was a little less... precise. For those of you looking for a better idea of the Geography as you read, here's a rough idea of where the cities of Mycenae, Athens, and Sparta were, in relation to one another, and the kingdom of Pirithous's people, the Lapiths, in the far north of Thessaly. (Spoiler free!)

And onward to a little bit of culture--

This was a FASCINATING topic to read up on, so if you have the interest, make sure you follow the links in the post! The most important takeaway: while Homer makes much of the funeral pyre and cremation of the dead, there is little to no evidence of cremation taking place in Mainland Greece during the period (LH IIIB ish) of the Trojan War. But I also talk about my thought process as an author in how to address the difference in what the casual reader might expect from a book that's part of the Trojan War cycle of mythology. (Spoiler free!)

Professor Dimitri Nakassis (of the University of Toronto) theorizes from his study of the Linear B tablets that the old model of PALACE and PEASANTS for Mycenaean Greek society should be modified to include a thriving middle class and large variety of contracted local elites. Dr. Nakassis is definitely a man to watch in this field, and his research is absolutely fascinating. (Spoiler free!)

And for added fun -- check out the Bronze Age RISK board El Husband created for the HELEN OF SPARTA launch party:





By Helen's HandIf you enjoyed Helen of Sparta don't forget to pre-order your copy of BY HELEN'S HAND -- available May 10th in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle! Or maybe just mark it to-read on Goodreads in the meantime :) And don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD for a free short story prequel to HELEN OF SPARTA: Ariadne and the Beast!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Heroes of BY HELEN'S HAND: Pirithous and Polypoetes

Since it's been a while, and most of my posts relating to the research and reading I did to write HELEN OF SPARTA and BY HELEN'S HAND are buried in the archives, I thought it might be a good idea to bring some of them back to your attention, hero by hero and topic by topic, so when May 10th rolls around, you'll be as ready to read as I was to write!  

NB: The Myths are the Myths, but most of these posts will include my perspectives and approaches to them, which could be spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution! 


I hope it isn't too much of a spoiler to admit, but Pirithous isn't really in BY HELEN'S HAND. He's mentioned, and referenced, but he's more of a ghost between the pages than anything else. If you know anything about his mythology -- well, I'm sure you know why.

HOWEVER.

Pirithous's son does just happen to make an appearance. Polypoetes, it turns out, is one of the many men listed as one of Helen's suitors. Which gives me an excuse to talk about BOTH of them, maybe, for old time's sake, and to give some extra context to Pirithous's son before you meet him on the page in BHH.

One of my favorite myths is the the story of how Theseus and Pirithous meet for the first time. Somehow, the idea of the young King Theseus, making a name for himself as a hero and an upstanding individual -- a king of great wisdom and honor -- being tested by Pirithous the most piratey of rapscallions, just tickles me. (Mild spoilers for Helen of Sparta if you're not familiar with the myths.)

Pirithous, Theseus, and that Ill-Advised Trip to the Underworld (Part I and Part II)
The story goes that Pirithous and Theseus made a pact that they should both marry daughters of Zeus, because they were demigods and as such deserving of marriage to women of divine lineage. Leaving aside the fact that a daughter of Zeus would also be Pirithous' half-sister and the marriage slightly incestuous, a demigod deciding he deserves some kind of honor or another for himself is never really a good idea. Hubris is never, ever, ever a recipe for success for any demigod or mortal. The gods just do not put up with it. (Definitely a spoiler for Helen of Sparta)

The Centauromachy, the war with the centaurs, doesn't seem to me to be something that can be overlooked for either of them. I can't get around the idea that the abduction of Hippodamia by the centaurs (her kin!) on her wedding day, of all days, and the subsequent bloodshed at the wedding feast, would be emotionally traumatizing not just for Hippodamia and Pirithous, but for the rest of the community as well, centaur and human alike. (This myth takes place maybe 20-30 years before Helen of Sparta, so Spoiler Free, but it's a very influential event both for Pirithous and, I believe, his son. Polypoetes is the son of Hippodamia, after all.)

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. I've done a lot of THINKING (and writing!) about Pirithous, and Polypoetes's mother, Hippodamia -- but until I started writing BHH, I hadn't really considered their son. (Definite Spoilers for Helen of Sparta and mild spoilers --primarily of motivation for BHH!)

There's a goodly sum of other... interesting? posts regarding Pirithous over at ye olde Good to Begin Well (again.) Including a small scene from a paranormal romance novel I've been poking at which features Pirithous in the modern day (because I guess I can't help myself). And of course you can find MOUNTAINS more on Hippodamia and the Centaurs by clicking through the appropriate tags on this blog, from when I was working on my Hippodamia/Centauromachy book. So feel free to explore, but just know there is a risk of happening upon the spare spoiler in plain sight!



By Helen's HandIf you enjoyed Helen of Sparta don't forget to pre-order your copy of BY HELEN'S HAND -- available May 10th in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle! Or maybe just mark it to-read on Goodreads in the meantime :) And don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD for a free short story prequel to HELEN OF SPARTA: Ariadne and the Beast!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Heroes of BY HELEN'S HAND: Heracles!

Since it's been a while, and most of my posts relating to the research and reading I did to write HELEN OF SPARTA and BY HELEN'S HAND are buried in the archives, I thought it might be a good idea to bring some of them back to your attention, hero by hero and topic by topic, so when May 10th rolls around, you'll be as ready to read as I was to write!  

NB: The Myths are the Myths, but most of these posts will include my perspectives and approaches to them, which could be spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution! 

Heracles and I have a strange history. I did not always love him -- despite Kevin Sorbo's winning charm. I just didn't get him. He seemed so one-dimensional to me for a long time. And maybe that was in part because I was thinking of him still from the perspective of my childhood's understanding vs really digging into his character as it is presented in the myths, but maybe also, it's because at first glance he does come off as a little bit... difficult to love, from the modern perspective. Like with Achilles, it took me a little more work to come to terms with him on HIS own terms.

The end result, ultimately, is that I was super excited when I realized I could include Heracles in BY HELEN'S HAND. And of course, it's always an interesting challenge to include someone so much larger than life and so well-known -- but I'd like to think I kept him from stealing the show.

This is an old blogpost from my Amalia Dillin blog that never made the cross-post transition, but seems relevant. These are the thoughts of 2011 me, when I first started realizing that maybe there was more to Heracles than I'd initially thought. It all started with a list of consorts, and a sculpture. And sculpture -- well, that is my favorite. (Totally Spoiler free!)

***Spoilers for By Helen's Hand!***
Mostly an introduction to the following post, but includes a couple of small interesting pieces about both Euripides' timeline of events, and Heracles himself. (I mean, if you know your myths it isn't a spoiler but! Even so. The last paragraph is definitely a little generically spoileriffic.)

***Spoilers for By Helen's Hand***

In the latter part of his play, Euripides illustrates the bond between Theseus and Heracles. They’re friends, of course, and why wouldn’t they be, being the two most celebrated heroes of their time[...]. And in Heracles' most desperate hour of need, when he is contemplating for the first time the thought of suicide to revenge upon himself the murder of his wife and children, it’s Theseus who comes to his aid. (Again, SPOILERS. Like, in the first paragraph even!)



If you're an old fan of Amalia Dillin!me, you may have seen a sneak peek of a very small element of his inclusion over yonder on ye olde Good to Begin Well, in a very early incarnation. You can count it as the first scene of BHH that was written, though where it appears in the final book...you'll have to wait to find out (and it is certainly a spoiler!) I'm not going to link because technically I probably should have taken it down :P but... it's there still for anyone who wants to find it! (And doesn't mind being a little bit spoiled on the events of BHH.)

I also did a not entirely serious comparison of Heracles and Jesus. Because you can make any two mythic heroes sound the same if you include the right facts and leave out the wrong ones. But I found it interesting as an exercise all the same!



By Helen's HandIf you enjoyed Helen of Sparta don't forget to pre-order your copy of BY HELEN'S HAND -- available May 10th in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle! Or maybe just mark it to-read on Goodreads in the meantime :) And don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD for a free short story prequel to HELEN OF SPARTA: Ariadne and the Beast!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Heroes of BY HELEN'S HAND: Theseus

Since it's been a while, and most of my posts relating to the research and reading I did to write HELEN OF SPARTA and BY HELEN'S HAND are buried in the archives, I thought it might be a good idea to bring some of them back to your attention, hero by hero and topic by topic, so when May 10th rolls around, you'll be as ready to read as I was to write!  

NB: The Myths are the Myths, but most of these posts will include my perspectives and approaches to them, which could be spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution! 


Since Theseus is my favorite, and the primary hero introduced in HELEN OF SPARTA, I figured he's the best place to begin. Here are some highlights from the archive!

Theseus Minotaur Ramey Tuileries
photo by Jastrow [Public domain], via Wiki Commons
What if Theseus is the first Adopted heir? And the reason he's credited as bringing democracy to Athens is because he was claimed the "long lost son" of Aegeus as a political necessity, to appease the people of Athens and Attica? 
(This post primarily addresses Theseus's earlier history, pre-Helen, so read without fear of Spoilers!)


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. 
(If you haven't read HELEN OF SPARTA and aren't familiar with his myths, this post might contain a spoiler!)

We remember Theseus primarily for his heroic deeds of self-sacrifice more than those of self-service, and that's strange indeed for a hero of his time, something that opens the door for an interpretation of his character that jives more readily with modern ideas! 
(Spoiler free!)
 
The Fall of Theseus (Part I and Part II)
King Theseus doesn't get nearly as much press as Young Theseus -- maybe because his later exploits (one of which is the abduction of Helen) end in disaster.
(Possible spoilers for HELEN OF SPARTA!)
You can also find a very short little piece of flash about Theseus and the Minotaur which I wrote waaaaaay back in 2010 on ye olde Good to Begin Well -- if you're eager for more Theseus in advance! (Or maybe just curious about his evolution as I played with his character.)


By Helen's HandIf you enjoyed Helen of Sparta don't forget to pre-order your copy of BY HELEN'S HAND -- available May 10th in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle! Or maybe just mark it to-read on Goodreads in the meantime :) And don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD for a free short story prequel to HELEN OF SPARTA: Ariadne and the Beast!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sign Up for my Newsletter: THE AMALIAD

I'm more than a day late, but it's time to get this ball rolling -- my new Author Newsletter, THE AMALIAD is a GO, and I'd love it if you all would sign up!

I won't be emailing you more than once a month (if that), and ONLY when I have something big to share like a new book, or a big promotion you might be interested in! So have no fear -- I won't be clogging your inbox. And to show my gratitude for your support and interest in following the adventures of Authors!Me, I'm offering subscribers an EXCLUSIVE short story about Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur, for FREE. (A link will be emailed to you automatically when you confirm your subscription!)



The first issue of the Amaliad will go out on May 10th!
(And it has some fun background info on how HELEN OF SPARTA was conceived!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Story of Helen

Amazon | B&N
Firstly, I think it is important to tell you what these books are not: They are not the story of the Trojan War.

I know. It is super counter-intuitive, because Helen of Sparta/Troy is the face that launched a thousand ships! She's the reason the whole war touched off at all. So anyone who knows their myths is totally reasonable in expecting a book about Helen of Sparta to be a book about the Trojan War.

But there is more than one narrative surrounding Helen of Sparta. All of them lead to the war, sure. A war completely arranged like pieces on a chess board by the gods. And there certainly is a war -- the Trojan War, in fact, as a result of the events of HELEN OF SPARTA and BY HELEN'S HAND.

The only trouble is, that story -- the story of the Trojan War -- that's the story everyone knows. That's the story that's been told and retold a hundred thousand times across every medium, from oral storytelling to vase paintings to scrolls to tapestries and mosaics to murals to frescoes to sculpture to plays and more plays to books to music to more books to movies to today.

Amazon | B&N
And this isn't about remaking the wheel -- just examining a bit more closely an overlooked spoke. The Trojan War is absolutely significant. Far more so than any other mythic-historical event, for inspiring us to study the past, for enduring in our cultural memory for so long. It's an important story to tell. And it's been told very well.

But I don't think that Helen lived only for the Trojan War. The gods might have tied her fate to it, but that doesn't mean there is not more to her story than the inevitable blood and death. Sure, there doesn't have to be. Most of the sources would agree. But there are a small few who suggest something else, something different -- who open the door to possibility. And it is that story, the one that has not been retold a hundred thousand times, that I wanted to explore.

In HELEN OF SPARTA and BY HELEN'S HAND, I've done so. Beginning with Theseus's abduction of her in her youth and ending... well, you'll see. And I hope that even though it isn't the story of the Trojan War, you'll love it for what it is -- a story of Helen.

(P.S. Don't forget there's still time to #NAMEthatSUITOR and enter to win a signed copy of HELEN OF SPARTA!)

Friday, March 25, 2016

HELEN OF SPARTA Audiobook GIVEAWAY

FIRSTLY -- I'll be signing on April 2nd, 1-4pm at Colonie Center Barnes and Noble for Local Author Day! Come on by!

We're only about a month and a half out from the release of BY HELEN'S HAND on May 10th, and I really, really cannot tell you how excited I am to share the rest of Helen's story with you. BY HELEN'S HAND will pick up almost directly where HELEN OF SPARTA left off, with the slightest of detours into the head of a player we haven't met before, and I hope you'll love the new perspectives as much as I loved writing them. (I shouldn't admit it, but -- my personal favorite might be Polypoetes!)

In the meantime, the Audiobook of HELEN OF SPARTA releases on March 29th! Just 4 days from now! (Huzzah!) You can pre-order it in TWO forms -- MP3 CD for copy and paste to your mp3 player of choice, and Audio CD for playing on your traditional CD players. (I am one of these traditionalists, not going to lie. I will never give up my CDs.) It'll ALSO be available via Audible, if that's your jam! ALL are unabridged and for those of you who love or prefer audiobooks -- I hope you'll enjoy!

Also, if you're interested, I put some spoiler-free behind the scenes commentary on Goodreads while I was doing the final proofing of BY HELEN'S HAND. This is something I want to continue to do with future books -- so if you want to read it in real time, make sure to follow me over there! (And I'll be doing the same with my future Amalia Dillin works, too.)


And finally the GIVEAWAY -- and a little bit of a quote from BY HELEN'S HAND to whet your appetites. The First Blog-Reader to NAME THAT SUITOR correctly will win their choice of the Audio CD or MP3 CD of HELEN OF SPARTA! One lucky runner-up chosen at random from all the guesses will win a signed paperback copy of HELEN OF SPARTA with both Helen of Sparta and By Helen's Hand bookmarks!



Include your email address with your guess in the comments below so I can contact you to claim your prize or I will choose an alternate winner! Only comments on this blogpost will be accepted as entries.
(I reserve the right to alter the giveaway/award unclaimed prizes to alternate winners, etc. US only for book/audiobook prizes -- though I'm happy to send signed bookmarks to an international winner if they'd like to play and are chosen as a winner.)

You have until April 1st to get your guesses in!