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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holiday Hiatus!

The winners of the #NAMEthatBUTT challenge have been declared over on, and I have LOTS of words to write, and Helen of Sparta's sequel to proof, which means it's time for the annual the HOLIDAY HIATUS! But before I go, a few notes:

  1. Just in time for Christmas, the paperback edition of HELEN OF SPARTA is on sale during the month of December for just $8.75 on! Give the gift of Helen and Theseus to your friends, so they'll be ready for Book Two, BY HELEN'S HAND in June!
  2. I've got more books by Amalia Carosella in the works once Helen's story wraps, but I can't share anything more about them quite yet! Just rest assured that I'll be using December and January and February to write like the wind for your future historical fiction reading pleasure. (Which means you might just mostly be getting writing cave updates when I'm back to posting in late January/early February.)
  3. Did I mention both HELEN OF SPARTA and BY HELEN'S HAND are getting audio book editions?! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I'm super stoked, and I hope you are, too!!

And that's a wrap for now -- here's some Santa Herc to get you through the new year, along with my warmest wishes for the happiest holidays of your choice/tradition!

See you in 2016!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

3rd Annual #NameThatButt: Round 7, Double Butt Finale BONUS QUOTE!

This is it, guys! The final round!! And I've got a final Bonus Quote for you, too -- though it might be a little bit anti-climactic if you've already determined the identification of our twin ultibutts!

(To be honest all the best bonus quote action for these two butts is in a forthcoming title -- but that wouldn't be fair quote-play!)

These butts are courtesy of Thomas G. Hale!
Please do not reuse without permission.
A horse whinnied, drawing me to the window. The messenger stood with his animal, greaves, cloak, and leather chest-plate covered in dust from the road. My brothers greeted him, looking as though they had come straight from the practice field. They certainly didn’t look like twins, but of course the priests had attributed that to parentage, and said the same again when Clytemnestra and I were born, three years later, different as moon and sun in appearance and temperament. Leda swore Zeus had been in her husband’s guise the first time he came to her. She only realized the deceit later that night, when Tyndareus himself had returned and took her to bed a second time. The priests believed, then, that fair, green-eyed XXXX had been born of Zeus, and dark-haired and olive-skinned YYYY came from Tyndareus’s mortal seed. When my brothers’ looks were repeated in Clytemnestra and me, their declarations were only made more convincing.

Be sure to drop your guesses in the comments, and if you haven't already, hit up for this week's clues, to #NAMEthatBUTT after you #NAMEthatBOOK!

But as a special treat for this Bonus Quote Finale, here's a snippet of an unedited cut scene from the BOOK you're guessing, as well! Call it Bonus-Bonus content...

Acamas brought me my evening meal, for Aethra could not be spared from the banquet without insulting the guests. I smiled and insisted that he sit with me while I ate, for I wanted desperately to hear the news from Sparta, and I had learned quickly that Acamas heard most everything in the palace. He was still young enough to be overlooked, and old enough to know all the best places to listen.

“You should have seen the horse he rode!” Acamas told me, his eyes bright with excitement and his cheeks flushed. “Black as night and taller than any in Father’s stables. It must be Poseidon’s own stallion!”

“Is XXXX not with him?” I asked, picking through the vegetable relish for the sweet peas. I saw no reason to eat cabbage if I did not need to, though it went well enough with the goat meat.

“Just the son of Atreus.” Acamas wrinkled his nose with distaste. “He demanded that Father let them search the women’s quarters, but of course Aethra would never allow it. She was offended more than Father, I think, and YYYY apologized. Menelaus is certain you must be here, but I do not think your brother believes it. He said that all of Sparta grieves for your loss, and offerings are made to Zeus each day, asking that you be returned unharmed. So many, the priests are growing fat on them! Queen Leda refuses to leave her rooms, and King Tyndareus has sent men out to every corner of Achaea, but it is rumored among the Spartans that Zeus took you to Olympus and so Tyndareus sent XXXX to Delphi to learn what he might from the Oracle.”

“Let us hope that the Oracle keeps our secret, then.” I offered him a fig and he took it with a grin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

3rd Annual #NAMEthatButt: Round 6 Bonus Quote!

And we're back for Round 6 with another bonus quote! (I can't tell you how much I wish I could quote from BY HELEN'S HAND for this year's #namethatbutt challenge, but alas! Maybe next year!)

Once again, if you haven't seen the clues for this week's butt, hit up and be sure to check it out.

In the meantime, you can Name This Book instead!

“You offer this bull as gift rather than sacrifice. Do you think I am so easily trapped by sacred laws? I am not a king that you can make me your guest-friend and bind me to your protection.”

“I come to speak to the father of my husband, my lord, not to the god.”

“And yet, it is the god’s favors you ask for.” His sandaled feet were tied with seaweed instead of leather, so dark a green they looked black. He offered me his hand, and I had no choice but to take it, or risk giving offense. His fingers closed over mine, warm and dry and well calloused. “Rise, daughter of Zeus, ill-gotten wife of my son.”

I did as he bid, keeping my gaze averted from his face. He wore a sail-cloth kilt the color of sea foam, wrapped around his hips and tied carelessly with thick ropes similar to those I had glimpsed on the deck of Theseus’s ship, but his chest was bare, and he stood taller than his son by a head or more. He was as brown from the sun as any oarsman, his body so thick with muscle, he made Theseus look sparely built.

“Make your sacrifice, for you surely need the god’s favor more than the father’s love.”

Drop your guesses in the comments and get ready, because next week is the DOUBLE BUTT finale!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

#NAMEthatBUTT Round 5

No bonus quote this week -- but please do head over to and check out the clues for this week's #NameThatButt round!!

While you're waiting for next week's games, you'll find me (beginning tomorrow!) at World Fantasy Con in Saratoga Springs, NY, and I'll have Butt stickers and Butt magnets, for your amusement, along with assorted bookmarks, postcards, and whatnots. I'm not on any panels this year, but if you see me, I'll be thrilled to say hello, and my Amalia Dillin books will be on sale in the dealers room at Flights of Fantasy Books and Games!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

3rd Annual #NameThatButt: Round 4, Bonus Quote

For Round 4, we're switching it up to marble, rather than bronze -- and a huge thanks to the photographer, Tommi Lou Carosella, for capturing this backside! Head over to to #NAMEthatBUTT, if you haven't, or keep on scrolling for this week's BONUS QUOTE, and #NAMEthatBOOK instead, for an extra 2 points!

photo by Tommi Lou Carosella, used with permission

“XXXX, hear us,” I began, pouring a sip of the wine into the fire. “We are the vessel, and you are the wine. And so we drink to you, of you, with you, that we might know you, and you might know our hearts and prayers, and carry them up, to Olympus, to Zeus our king of kings, and Hera our queen in all things, that we might be heard and answered!”

And then I drank. One sip, then two, before I circled the hearth, pausing between each of the four pillars, to raise the cup again and drink, giving thanks to [him] with every touch of the wine against my lips. When I reached the position before the throne again, I finished what remained in the kylix and dropped to my knees before the hearth.

“Accept our offerings and all our prayers, we beg of you,” I finished, lifting my arms and throwing my head back. My eyes closed. “Accept us as your servant, your vessel, in this.”

Drop your best guess of the name of the book in the comments on either blog, and thanks for playing! Next week there will be NO bonus quote, but don't worry -- there will definitely be more #NameThatBook fun for round 6!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

3rd Annual #NameThatButt: Round 3, Bonus Quote

I can't promise a bonus quote every week -- there are a couple of sculptures of mythic figures in my hoard who I haven't referenced even obliquely in my books, and in fact, this quote is kind of a stretch but(t)! Name this Book, and you'll get your 2 bonus points, regardless! (If only Helen's Sequel were out, I'd have a much better quote -- but alas and alack!)

And don't forget to #NameThatButt over at, when you're done here! But at LEAST click over to see the reveal for Round 2 because it's one of my favorites of this year's game!

This round's bonus quote:

The Northlands had fallen to the Christians, one after another. All but the Sami, in the far north, and the peasants and Samogitians of Lithuania, to the east, had converted. The old ways were outlawed along with the worship of the gods who had nurtured them for so long. There were those among the converted lands who still made sacrifice in private, praying to Freyr to protect their crops, or calling upon Odin to give them strength in battle, but every year, they grew fewer in number. Every year, the gods of Asgard spoke of moving on. And every year, Odin refused to be persuaded, his one-eyed gaze falling upon Thor, and grimmer lines forming around his mouth and eyes. Odin had never forgiven him for Loki’s murder, nor was he at all pleased that the Council had sanctioned it. But that was not all that lay between them.

“All these years, and you are still under her spell,” Odin had spat, after Thor had told him he would not go on to the new world that Zeus and his brothers had found, regardless of any decision made by the Aesir.

XXXX and Anubis traveled between the two planes, now and again, bringing news and invitations. The Covenant had forged bonds between pantheons that had not been forgotten, and Zeus had not quite given up on reclaiming his wisest daughter. Most of the Egyptians had left, at Ra’s urging, and a good many of the Persians had followed. There was no longer room for any worship but that of Elohim in those lands.

Name that Book! And maybe the mysterious XXXX's backside will come into better focus! :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

3rd Annual #NameThatButt: Round 2, Bonus Quote!

Ready for Round 2? Come #NAMEthatBUTT over at! But(t) first: Name this Book for 2 extra bonus points this week!

My photography might not be great but hopefully my writing doesn't disappoint -- here's this week's Bonus Quote!

Reu was watching her, searching her face. “What will you do?”

[She] stepped toward the tree, and the low branch from which the serpent had hung. One of the fruits, hidden in the red leaves, winked with a flash of sunlight. A faint tingle traveled down her arm as her hand closed around it and the fruit came free. The branch swayed, relieved of its burden, weeping the broad scarlet leaves in a shower around her.

The fruit was heavy in her hand. Much heavier than an apple would have been. She wondered briefly about the angels. Who they were, and what they would do to her when they realized she had broken God’s law. Sin, the creature had called it. But was it, really? Or was it wisdom, for the greater good, like the story Reu had told her about the one-eyed man in the sky?

She raised the fruit to her lips.

Name that Book in the comments below, or Name that Butt AND Book over at and aim for the title of #NAMEthatBUTT Champion!

(But seriously you at least want to check over yonder next Tuesday for the full frontal reveal of this sculpture because it is frankly phenomenal, in my most humble opinion. A very different take on its subject!)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

3rd Annual #NAMEthatBUTT: Round 1, Bonus Quote!

Guess the Butt, and then Guess the book (hint -- it was written by me) from which this quote was taken! Or just guess the book, and you'll still score your bonus 2 points for this round!

Her auburn hair hung loose down her back, myrtle flowers floating in the soft curls like gulls on the sea. A scallop-shell pendant rested at the hollow of her throat, and sparrows and doves darted around her feet, picking at the crumbs of past offerings. Strange that I had never met her before, but I wished that she had not dedicated herself to the gods. Perhaps Menelaus might have fallen in love with her, instead.

“Do you feel so ill-used? The most beautiful woman alive, with a brother who loves you well—Pollux will never forsake you. And a man who would offer you the same, though you spurn him.” She seemed to look right through me, pinning me to the earth. “Is there someone else you would prefer over Menelaus? You have only to name him and he will be delivered.”

“No.” I rose to my feet. I did not like the way she spoke of Menelaus, as if he were nothing more than a convenience. “I ask nothing of these gods. Let Menelaus love me for his own reasons, or better yet, not at all.”

Name that Book, and while you're at it, go ahead and Name that Butt, too! (You know you want to!) Drop your guesses in the comments --they're moderated so no one will see your answer but me-- and join the fun!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The 3rd Annual #NAMEthatBUTT Challenge begins October 6th!

Artemis/Diana's beautiful backside in motion!
Join me over at for some mythic sculpture fun beginning October 6th, and test your knowledge of mythology with the 3rd Annual #NAMEthatBUTT Challenge!

This year the games will cross over to this blog, as well, with some bonus clues appearing here, as called for -- I'll be using quotes from my books which relate to the butts in question, and if you guess which book I'm quoting from, you'll get a bonus two points for that week's round! (Spoiler: you can safely eliminate the Orc Saga books from these events -- so if you want to prepare by reading up, focus your attentions on HELEN OF SPARTA, and my Fate of the Gods trilogy!) As a result, you can expect this blog to be mostly finely sculpted backsides for the immediate future, and regularly scheduled posting will likely not resume until next year. (Words to write! Holidays to Holi! etc, etc.)

And since the games are coming, I thought it would be a good idea to post the rules for those of you who might be new to this greatest of adventures, just in case you want to play along!

  • Comments will be moderated.  You will NOT see your comment appear immediately after posting! 
  • I post a butt and clues at on Tuesday, you guess who that butt belongs to in the comments yonder. If you guess right, you get 5 points. 
  • There may be a bonus clue posted on Wednesdays over at -- when applicable they will be announced on Tuesday in the main post and instructions for how to bonus it up will be included in the bonus post!
  • If you CORRECTLY identify the artistic work (title/artist) in question, you earn a bonus 5 points total: 2.5 for title, 2.5 for artist. (Provided of course, that it differs from the subject's name alone and the artist is known at all)
  • The following Friday, I reveal the full backside image of the sculpture in question! If at this time you can correctly identify artist/title/subject of the piece, you can earn up to 3 points (total -- 1 point for artist, 1 point for title, 1 point for subject) 
  • You may guess artist/title/subject/book from which I've quoted until the next round of NAME THAT BUTT begins. (Usually the next Tuesday -- I'll reveal the previous week's sculpture and offer the next butt for guessing!)
  • I'll keep a running tally of correct answers/points.
  • For Olympians, Greek AND Roman names are acceptable for the subject guesses. For example, if the butt belongs to Mercury, I will also accept Hermes as a correct answer. Titles of works must be exact, however.
  • A new NAME THAT BUTT may NOT be posted every week, depending on Things, but it's my hope they will be. 
  • There will be Prizes at the finish. They will be shipped internationally. I haven't decided what they'll be yet, but for sure they will include #NAMEthatBUTT postcards/stickers.
I do hope you'll join us in the fun!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tales from the Edit Cave

I'm still in developmental edits (Round 2) for Helen the Sequel (we're still working on the title!) and hoping to wrap that up today. NEXT Wednesday, I'll be taking the day off from this blog, but for a reason! At the end of September/early October I'm hoping I can put together a new #NameThatButt game, which will cross-over from my Amalia Dillin blog, GOOD TO BEGIN WELL, BETTER TO END WELL with some fun clues from my (myth-related) books. So fans of HELEN OF SPARTA, I hope you'll come play along!

In the meantime, I'm running a promotion for my romantic fantasy series -- HONOR AMONG ORCS is just 99 cents for the next two days, and I've reduced the pre-order price of BLOOD OF THE QUEEN, too, to entice readers during the sale -- so if you think you might be interested in reading the non-historical-fiction side of me, now's a good time to take a very small risk for what could (potentially/hopefully) be great rewards!

And with all of that said, I'm climbing back into my cave to edit, edit, edit!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


New rug, new work space, new books, and new adventures!

Well, okay, maybe not entirely new (seriously this desk came with us from North Dakota, where we bought it second, or possibly third hand off of a fellow student, and that chair is a hand me down from my sister's residency in this same house -- I think 4 out of 5 of my siblings have lived here at one point in time or another, and we all left something behind -- but we did finally reorganize and relocate it all so I have a new-semi-temporary space to work that isn't "that armchair in the living room"!) because I'm editing Helen The Sequel, still, after all -- but I'm definitely exploring some different options. At the moment I can neither confirm nor deny anything relating to the topic of the next book I'll be working on because I'm still a little up in the air on what I want to write!

But I *will* be doing some serious reading in the near future! For research and pleasure and um... pleasure research? (Research pleasure? Whatever! I just like Norse stuff, okay?!)

And now I'm back to the edit/research cave!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Process: Developmental Edits

So since last week I talked a little bit about what I *want* to write, I thought maybe I'd stick with the theme and talk a little bit today about a step that comes after the *want* and before the Published-For-Your-Reading-Pleasure: Developmental Editing!

I never did give you guys a good look at Theseus Candy Land!
Much like Developmental Edits, this is only the beginning.
Here's a thing you should know about Developmental Edits -- they're my most favorite part of the editing process. I love getting the letter and digging in to find out what I can do to make my book better. Developmental Edits (or Structural Edits), are the bigger, macro level elements. How do I make my character's motivations stronger, or where do I need to cull some of the sag to keep the book moving because my pacing has faltered? It's about the broad strokes more than the line level issues. That said, there are usually some line level pieces that get tagged along the way, if they jump out, and I address those, too.

But the first thing I do is read everything. The letter, and any and all comments in the manuscript, and then the letter again. As I go through the manuscript comments the first time, I do all the easy fixes -- the line level things that popped up here or there, or anything that can be addressed with just a quick line or a clarification. I try not to get sucked into reading the book itself. (This is always a challenge at this stage -- less of one later, when I'm sick of staring at the screen and agonizing over commas.)

Once I've gotten all the easy fixes out of the way, I reread the developmental edit letter -- which kind of highlights the big things that were awesome or need fixing where more than just a comment bubble is needed to get the point across. I make myself a little list of the big issues, either in a new document, or by highlighting in the letter itself, so I can see EXACTLY what needs doing. (I've been fortunate with HELEN and her sequel in that the manuscript has been pretty solid, but with my other books, there have definitely been times when I had to throw out huge tracts of the manuscript or rewrite from the ground up.)

At this point, I do the surgical strikes. The "this chapter didn't work for x reason, please fix" kind of problems. I skip into the chapter (or maybe the chapter just before to make sure I'm grounded) and dig into that issue. The isolated issues are the easiest -- but sometimes even the issues that SEEM isolated have ripple effects throughout the rest of the manuscript, so I try to keep that in mind, and add it to my list as necessary.

Once ALL the spot treatments are out of the way, I go back to the beginning of the manuscript with the BIGGEST of those identified and issues firmly in mind -- the overarching stuff that requires me to attentively look at every chapter for either the whole book, or a considerable swath -- and I start rereading and nipping and tucking and adding and tweaking as necessary. As I fix a thing in my list, I cross it out or delete it. That way I don't lose track of what I'm doing or forget any piece of the edit puzzle.

There have definitely been times when after reading a developmental edit my kneejerk first response has been "No! I can't DO that! What! How am I supposed to make that happen?!" (Even for HELEN -- before she found a home a Lake Union, when I was only a fledgling author!) But in the next breath, my brain is already whirring and spinning with ideas for how I CAN make it work or otherwise address the issue, and by the next day or the day after, I have a plan of attack. It might not be what the editor had in mind or suggested, but I always end up finding away to approach the problematic element, even if it seems impossible at first.

And that's that! I hope you enjoyed this kind of behind the scenes peek into the editing process!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What I Want to Write

These last couple of weeks as I've been researching different people and periods and places for something that might become A Book, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish as an author of historical fiction. What drives me to choose one story over another? To choose one person or place over another? What do I want to tie my books together when/if I eventually break away from the Bronze Age?

I hadn't really given it a lot of thought, but as I was researching, wrinkling my nose at this person or that period, it kind of jumped out at me. One of the things I tried to do with HELEN already, and would really like to continue to do, is give voice to people (in a serious and respectful way) who we, in the west, have been quicker to dismiss -- to acknowledge that perhaps these other, older cultures and people DID have their own meaningful experiences with the numinous or some greater spiritual power.

And maybe sometimes this means writing a book about Joan of Arc, who no one believed heard the voice of God (unless it was politically expedient, of course). Maybe it calls for a book about Ramesses the Great and Moses (both of whom, in that moment, must have felt sorely tested in their faith.) Or maybe it means writing books about Greek heroes who actually really are the sons and daughters of Olympians. And maybe it means digging into the Icelandic Sagas, and exploring the complicated relationships that the Icelanders and the Norse had with their gods, or the struggle to reconcile their old faith to the new one, when the White Christ came.

It's important to acknowledge the experiences and the beliefs of the people who came before us, and while we can't ever know for certain how real or imagined any god is or was, I want to be truthful to what the people of these times, these cultures, believed they were. Not just out of respect for the past, but for the present, too. Because there is still today, a great diversity of faith, and maybe by reading about it in the past, we'll have an easier time embracing it in the here and now.

I don't know if I'll always have the opportunity to write these kinds of books, of course -- but they're certainly the stories that make my fingers itch the most!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Helen Part II!

The biggest news around these parts -- HELEN OF SPARTA officially has a sequel in the works!!

Right now that's all I can tell you, but I look forward to sharing more about Helen II with all of you! Like, you know, a title, or a release date, or a cover, or even *gasp* the book!

But in the meantime, my other self is releasing the second book of a different series this fall, so if you like high fantasy, and you need something to tide you over... Well, you might venture on over to check it out!

This summer has been non-stop go go go go go, so I'm going to leave you with just the GOOD NEWS of Helen The Second for now. I hope it thrills you as much as it thrills me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Theseus and Ariadne (II)

 Before I go any further, I would be remiss if I didn't address the bias of the source material I'm drawing from -- Plutarch had his own agenda in writing down the story of Theseus. He meant to show a parallel between Theseus and Romulus, the founder of Rome, and by doing so, demonstrate Rome's greatness by the greatness of its founder. In this, it behooved Plutarch to show Theseus in a favorable light so that favor would reflect on Romulus and Rome itself. The other bias of Plutarch is his habit of discounting all godly influence, and without the involvement of the gods, these mythologies alter pretty dramatically. 

Ariadne and Dionysus
(photo by me, but I believe it's this work, by Foggini)
For instance, if Theseus was compelled to leave Ariadne behind that she might be made the bride of Dionysus, and through this, a goddess, that is a different thing entirely than his sailing off into the sunset to abandon her of his own accord, showing no regret. Or, in Paris's case, if Aphrodite swept Paris off the battlefield during that crucial fight with Menelaus against Paris's own wishes to deposit him in Helen's arms, that is a very different story than one in which Paris consciously flees from Menelaus, giving up the fight when he realizes he will die, and hiding in the palace in Helen's bed to let Hector do his fighting for him.

But even putting the issue of the gods and their absent-influences aside, I would argue that the same young man, who, seeing the pain of the people in Athens at having to give up their own sons and daughters, volunteers himself to travel to Crete and be part of this tribute to do what he can to lift their suffering would not, after showing such empathy, then callously abandon a woman who mothered his sons (Plutarch tells us that with the other women he may or may not have met along the way previous to this who gave him sons, he then took responsibility for seeing them married.), or callously abandon any woman who might have helped him in general, even without children. After all, hasn't he just risked his life for seven virgin Athenian girls? And the last woman who helped him and offered him kindness on his quest against the Marathon Bull, he repaid by creating what amounts to an annual holiday in her name, to honor her in perpetuity with sacrifices.

Theseus was not raised in Athens. He did not even know who his father (the Aegeus half) was until he was a young man strong enough to lift a boulder. After being made Aegeus's heir it was probably wise of him to make nice to the people he would rule, but to appease them, all he would have needed to do was throw his name into the lottery-- or APPEAR to throw his name into the lottery. Who would have known otherwise? Plutarch specifically states (emphasis mine):
These things sensibly affected Theseus, who, thinking it but just not to disregard, but rather partake of, the sufferings of his fellow-citizens, offered himself for one without any lot.
So what's the truth about Theseus and Ariadne? Judging by Plutarch and the character he's presented, it seems improbable that Theseus would change his colors so completely as to utterly abandon Ariadne, having taken responsibility for her. But that doesn't mean he didn't abduct her. The truth is, there's just no knowing what exactly went on between them, or what promises were made and broken. The only thing we can say is that once upon a time, there was a woman named Ariadne, and a young hero named Theseus, and when they crossed paths, a kingdom fell.

For my part, I'd like to believe Theseus treated Ariadne honorably, as far as he was able within the boundaries set by his culture and the gods. I certainly don't think we need to slave ourselves to the idea that Ariadne was wronged -- and if Plutarch makes anything clear, it's that there's room for us to tell a different story. A story in which Ariadne is neither abandoned nor abused, but following a course of her own making.

I, for one, think it's long past time we did so.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Theseus and Ariadne (I)

A major area where Theseus comes under criticism is in his dealings with women. In particular, his relationship and abandonment of Ariadne, and later, the question of his relationship with the Amazon Queen he may or may not have abducted but certainly carried on some kind of affair with. Today I'm going to focus on Ariadne and Plutarch's history of Theseus!

Ariadne and Dionysus/Bacchus
photo by me, iirc, of this work, by Foggini
As Plutarch himself admits:
There are yet many other traditions about these things, and as many concerning Ariadne, all inconsistent with each other.
And he isn't wrong. In Plutarch's Theseus, he gives us a fair rundown of the differing accounts, and I'll summarize them for you here, because quoting will make this the longest entry of all eternity. Generally, these stories fall into three camps:
  1. Theseus abandons Ariadne on Naxos purposely and with no regret and sails off.
  2. Theseus and his fellows spend the night on Naxos, and for reasons beyond Theseus's control he is forced to leave her behind (usually this means she married a priest of Dionysus, or Theseus's ship was blown back out to sea and by the time he got back Ariadne was dead.) 
  3. Theseus never took Ariadne at all, nor did she help him, but merely admired him from a distance.
The third is by far the least well known today, but you can see that these are the same contradictions that accompany the stories of Helen's abduction by Paris. No one really agrees, and different places and different poets had their own interpretations of what happened and who in the party was wronged.

Plutarch doesn't relate the stories which are commonly known in his time in any depth. (At which choice, I shake my fist in outrage from 2000 years in the future!) He does, however, mention two things I find interesting: firstly, that Ariadne may or may not have born Theseus sons (evidently whilst they were voyaging back from Crete, which is wow pretty fast gestation) who went off to found other cities/places, and secondly, he NEVER states that Ariadne asked for anything in return from Theseus in exchange for her help, only that Theseus takes her with him when he leaves.

What does this mean for Theseus's character and his relationship with Ariadne? Well, we'll discuss the context of all of this in the next post!

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!

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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.

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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,

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!
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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 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!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Authorial Adventures

Helen of Sparta Sorry!, Risk,
and Theseus's edition of Candyland
from the HELEN OF SPARTA launch party!
It's been pretty non-stop Mythology and Mycenaean Greece on the blog since HELEN's release, but I figured it was about time for an authorial update!

I've been writing like the wind behind the scenes, and researching all kinds of suitable mythological figures along the way. Lots of goddesses and judgments and some awesome, fun, surprise characters I wasn't expecting to find in this latest manuscript. I've been deep in the bronze age for two new manuscripts in a row now, plus HELEN OF SPARTA's edits before that, and it'll be fun to step outside of that and play around with some other projects while contractors come to tear up our 70s carpets and put in (long long long overdue) new flooring. (Seriously. Carpet from the 70s should not still be in ANYONE'S house.)

The EXCITEMENT of carpet destruction (etc) is likely to be impossible to escape and even more impossible to write through, so I don't expect to do more than pick at things here or there, but maybe if I'm lucky I'll get through some edits for that other Amalia. We'll see. Best Laid Plans, and so on!

Here's hoping your May is a lot quieter than mine, and that June will be clear sailing for everyone -- and at the very least, I've got the Historical Novel Society Conference at the end of June to look forward to, so Sound Off in the comments if I'll see you there!

Helen of Sparta
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Myth of Theseus and Democracy in Athens

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?

Theseus Minotaur Louvre F33 n2
Theseus slaying the Minotaur
photo by Jastrow, via wiki commons
Theseus had a purpose -- he was going to Athens to claim (or make?) his place there. He built his reputation along the way in such a manner as to make it virtually impossible for Aegeus to turn him away. When he arrived, according to some myths, Medea advised Aegeus to kill him, because he was obviously seeking to usurp Aegeus's power.

And maybe she was right. Maybe Theseus was a champion of the people of Attica, intent on upsetting the status quo, to overthrow the king (and his sorceress mistress?) and reassert the peoples' power -- to speak with the peoples' voice? And maybe, Aegeus, realizing the error of his ways, (was he a tyrant? he might have been!) instead of being overthrown, used it to his advantage to preserve his own power while at the same time giving his people the appearance of winning, by adopting Theseus as his son. He didn't have any heirs,  and if the people were revolting against the current leadership, whatever Medea's plans were, they weren't going to work. And there was always the hope that Theseus might end up dead in Crete anyway.

And maybe that was even a condition of the adoption -- maybe to be declared Aegeus's heir, Theseus had to go to Crete as tribute, and IF he survived and returned to Athens, he would then be given the kingship, free and clear.

And maybe when Aegeus leaped from the rock to his death, it wasn't grief that drove him. Maybe it was the realization that he'd lost the gamble, and Theseus had returned -- and knowing he'd lost his kingdom, maybe he wanted to save face. Rather than being removed, he made a statement, and shadowed Theseus' ascendance with his suicide.

All of this assuming, of course, that a man named Theseus might have lived, and a king named Aegeus might have died.

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, April 22, 2015

The Influence of Zeus on the Trojan War

Peter Paul Rubens - The Judgement of Paris, c.1606 (Museo del Prado)
Peter Paul Rubens Judgment of Paris,
via Wiki Commons
Often, the Judgement of Paris is considered to be the first seed of the Trojan War -- the story of Eris tossing an apple to the goddesses of Olympus, inscribed with the words "for the fairest," which caused Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to squabble over who it should belong to. The three goddesses are then referred to Paris for judgement, and proceed to each bribe him for the apple and the title of "fairest." Paris ultimately chooses Aphrodite, who offers him Helen, and then, with the goddess's encouragement goes to Sparta to fetch her for his own.

But the beginnings of the Trojan War go back even farther than Paris's ill-considered judgement. There are a couple of accounts which place the blame squarely on Zeus' (premeditating) shoulders:
"There was a time when the countless tribes of men, though wide-dispersed, oppressed the surface of the deep-bosomed earth, and Zeus saw it and had pity and in his wise heart resolved to relieve the all-nurturing earth of men by causing the great struggle of the Ilian war, that the load of death might empty the world. And so the heroes were slain in Troy, and the plan of Zeus came to pass" (Cypria Fragments).

And according to Hesiod's Catalog of Women:

"Now all the gods were divided through strife; for at that very time Zeus who thunders on high was meditating marvellous deeds, even to mingle storm and tempest over the boundless earth, and already he was hastening to make an utter end of the race of mortal men, declaring that he would destroy the lives of the demi-gods, that the children of the gods should not mate with wretched mortals, seeing their fate with their own eyes; but that the blessed gods henceforth even as aforetime should have their living and their habitations apart from men. But on those who were born of immortals and of mankind verily Zeus laid toil and sorrow upon sorrow" (II: 2-13).
Hesiod's account is almost Old-Testament-I'll-Flood-The-World-and-Destroy-Everyone in its tone, but both of the texts make it clear that Zeus had a plan to rid the world of a good portion of its population, be they demigods and their children, or just men in general. From this perspective, Paris, Helen, Menelaus -- they were simply expedient tools to bring about this master plan. A plan that it seems, when taking into account the events of  The Iliad, the other gods and goddesses weren't necessarily privy to. It also makes Zeus into a fantastic puppet master, or grants him a level of omniscience we don't often associate with the Olympian gods.

However the Trojan War came about, it was devastating. Not just for Troy, but for the Greeks as well. And in my opinion, it seems the perfect mythic explanation for the Greek Dark Ages, which followed. And what's a better story to tell around the hearth than one with a mess of  meddling by the gods?

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.