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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Paris and Oenone

Idylle: famille antique by Bouguereau
via wikimedia commons
(It's always shouted Paris and Oenone to me!)
As anyone familiar with the myths knows, before Paris become a prince of Troy, he was a shepherd boy on Mount Ida, and while living upon Mount Ida, caring for his father's flock and earning the name Alexandros for his bravery in defending the livestock against raiders, he carried on a relationship with a nymph by the name of Oenone and had a child, a son by her, named Corythus. Perhaps Oenone was even his wife.

In the retelling of Paris's story, and his single-minded abduction of Helen, Oenone is often forgotten. Perhaps that's fitting, since Paris appears to forget her completely the moment that the lure of Helen is set before him -- perhaps it's only natural that we, also, would then be inclined to overlook her, in our zeal to get to the Action of the story and the Trojan War itself. But poor Oenone -- poor Oenone does not forget. She doesn't forget the love she had for Paris, their days spent hunting and herding and traipsing up and down the mountain together. She doesn't have the luxury of forgetting after she's left behind on Mount Ida, the proof of their relationship in the child she holds in her arms.

In Ovid's Heroides (5), Oenone writes a letter to Paris after he's returned from Sparta with Helen, giving us a glimpse of her sorrow and pain:

"...I was the first to spy and know the sails of your bark, and my heart’s impulse was to rush through the waves to you. While I delayed, on the highest of the prow I saw the gleam of purple – fear seized upon me; that was not the manner of your garb. The craft comes nearer, borne on a freshening breeze, and touches the shore; with trembling heart I have caught the sight of a woman’s face. And this was not enough – why was I mad enough to stay and see? – in your embrace that shameless woman clung! Then indeed did I rend my bosom and beat my breast, and with the hard nail furrowed my streaming cheeks, and filled holy Ida with wailing cries of lamentation; yonder to the rocks I love I bore my tears. So may Helen’s grief be, and so her lamentation, when she is deserted by her love; and what she was first to bring on me may she herself endure!"

Poor Oenone was not a woman who was content to be set aside. Nor do I imagine does a nymph often find herself in the position of spurned lover. And I can only imagine what their life must have been before -- before Helen, before the goddesses and the cursed apple, before Zeus decided that he would have his war to end the age of heroes and cleanse them from the earth. Certainly it must have been happy, for her to be so heartbroken at its lose. Oenone loved Paris, unquestionably. And it seems, too, that she believed Paris loved her back.

It's a shame it couldn't last.

We're blogtouring May 16-June 24th to celebrate the release of BY HELEN'S HAND (Helen of Sparta #2) -- available NOW in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle. I hope you'll join us by sharing your own reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you like to talk books!

And if you enjoyed my take on Helen, don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD for a free short story prequel to HELEN OF SPARTA: Ariadne and the Beast!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Menelaus in Helen of Sparta

There are two characters in my Helen of Sparta books who kind of got short shrift after all the trimming and cutting and editing was done: Menelaus and Clytemnestra. I really wish I'd been able to give a little bit more space to both of them, on the page, but for pacing and other reasons, I just couldn't quite make it work. For both of them, the cuts that left them behind took place long before the book even reached my agent, never mind my publisher. It was just part of the process of winnowing the book down to its core and finding its focus -- part of making Helen of Sparta a book about Helen and Theseus, rather than a book which addressed the entirety of Helen's story.

For Menelaus, particularly, this meant losing part of his character arc and some smaller moments illustrating his relationship with Helen before he goes off to war at his brother's side to reclaim Mycenae. Exchanges that showed my own desire to see Menelaus as a hero -- because in spite of everything that happens in Helen of Sparta and By Helen's Hand (which I can't promise not to spoiler as I write this post, BEWARE!), I don't think Menelaus himself ever wants to be anything else. I think he genuinely tried to be the love of Helen's life, and I don't think it's entirely his fault that he falls short.

This is part of why I say that more than anything, these books are A story of Helen, not necessarily meant to be The Definitive story of Helen -- because the small changes I made to the myths in my retelling created ripples, and I think a great many of those ripples washed over Menelaus. The man who began as Helen's best friend, as the prime contender for Hero of the Story slowly started to change and shift beneath my fingers with every word written. Because each time Helen pushed her best friend away to save her people, each time she made the choice to fight against her fate, I realized that she was rejecting not just the demands of the gods, but also Menelaus himself. And how long could I expect Menelaus to endure that very personal (and very impersonal) rejection without being hurt by it? Without fighting back, grasping desperately to keep hold of the woman he loved? The woman he was fated to marry and lose?

And this on top of what was already a clearly difficult relationship with his brother, Agamemnon -- the man who would later claim the title of High King and lead the great army of Greeks against the Trojans to reclaim Menelaus's own wife. The man who competed in his brother's place to win her at all. On top of an early life spent in exile from his own home. His own kingdom. How could the foundations of Menelaus's character not crack under so much pressure, so much strain?

In the Odyssey, Menelaus cannot think about the Trojan War without incredible distress. Understandably, those events left their mark upon his psyche. Perhaps the war, the devastating losses broke him. I don't doubt that after the war, after he had won Helen back and found security in her affections at last, that he loved her. Maybe she loved him back, too. Maybe having suffered and survived those events together, they were bound to one another in ways they themselves didn't understand, and that was, at last, what united them completely.

I'm inclined to believe that he loved her before the war, too. That he was devastated, too, by her loss -- stolen or abandoned, and he could not have known if she had gone willingly or been taken by force. I'm inclined to believe, too, that having Helen of Sparta as a wife was not all glory and sunshine and flowers. That the prize of her beauty had a cost. I'm inclined to believe that even for the best of men, knowing your wife inspires deep desire and overpowering lust in every other man who looks upon her -- and knowing intimately just how powerful those emotions are, as one entrapped by them as well -- is unlikely to be a foundation for a happy marriage or a peaceful union. And that's without all the rest of the complications and conflict embedded in the myths.

So did I treat Menelaus harshly in my Helen of Sparta books? Perhaps. Perhaps I didn't give him as much credit as he deserved. Perhaps he was a better man, a stronger man.

But I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that even the strongest man could not have stood for long against the power of Helen.

And as Theseus says in Helen of Sparta: 

Only a fool seeks to hold a daughter of Zeus against her will.

We're blogtouring May 16-June 24th to celebrate the release of BY HELEN'S HAND (Helen of Sparta #2) -- available NOW in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle. I hope you'll join us by sharing your own reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you like to talk books!

And if you enjoyed my take on Helen, don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD for a free short story prequel to HELEN OF SPARTA: Ariadne and the Beast!

Monday, May 16, 2016

By Helen's Hand Blog Tour Begins Now!

Let's get this party started!

Monday, May 16
Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, May 17
Review at The Reading Queen
Wednesday, May 18
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, May 19
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Monday, May 23
Spotlight at Creating Herstory
Tuesday, May 24
Spotlight at Book Nerd
Wednesday, May 25
Review at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, May 26
Review at Helen’s Daughter
Wednesday, June 1
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Review of Helen of Sparta at History From a Woman's Perspective
Friday, June 3
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Monday, June 6
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, June 8
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, June 16
Review at Impressions In Ink
Friday, June 17
Review at Layered Pages
Monday, June 20
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, June 22
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, June 24
Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

By Helen's Hand has Arrived!!!

Yesterday was the big day for BY HELEN'S HAND! The sequel to HELEN OF SPARTA, BHH completes my retelling of Helen's story, and I've been dying to be able to share it with you all! We'll begin blogtouring next week, thanks to Amy at the fantastic Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, but there are already some great reviews coming in on Goodreads.

Amazon | B&N

With divine beauty comes dangerous power.

Helen believed she could escape her destiny and save her people from utter destruction. After defying her family and betraying her intended husband, she found peace with her beloved Theseus, the king of Athens and son of Poseidon.

But peace did not last long. Cruelly separated from Theseus by the gods, and uncertain whether he will live or die, Helen is forced to return to Sparta. In order to avoid marriage to Menelaus, a powerful prince unhinged by desire, Helen assembles an array of suitors to compete for her hand. As the men circle like vultures, Helen dreams again of war—and of a strange prince, meant to steal her away. Every step she takes to protect herself and her people seems to bring destruction nearer. Without Theseus’s strength to support her, can Helen thwart the gods and stop her nightmare from coming to pass?

The Book Voucher: "I was captured from the very first page by Amalia Carosella’s marvelous voice."
(5 Stars!)

From The Moscato Mommy: "Carosella did a beautiful job of writing a fictional story with a classical feel to it that was elegant without being pretentious or too stuffy." (4 stars!)

Stephanie Thornton, Author of The Conqueror's Wife  and Daughter of the Gods weighed in, too: 
"By Helen's Hand is a fresh interpretation of the events leading up to the Trojan War." (5 Stars!)

If you've grabbed your copy of BHH and enjoyed Helen's story -- please consider leaving a review of your own on Amazon/Goodreads/Barnes and Noble, or wherever you like to talk books! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Heroes of BY HELEN'S HAND: Paris

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! 

***Let's DOUBLE DOWN on the Spoiler Tag in Advance here -- but if you don't know the general myth of Paris and Helen already, um. Don't read ANYTHING beyond this point.***

Rubens - Judgement of Paris
(Pictorial Interlude to save your eyes from potential spoilers Go!)
Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

"Hero" might be a generous title but you had to know he was coming. There is no way to write the rest of the Helen's story without Paris of Troy. None. And in BY HELEN'S HAND, I wanted very much to give him a strong foundation from which to act. And that foundation -- the character of Paris I wanted to bring to life, comes primarily from Ovid's Heroides.

**There are general Spoilers in this SUMMARY, and in the post.**
Maybe Paris isn't a Theseus, but Ovid certainly shows us an Odysseus-like schemer. charismatic and brilliant, charming and wily. And it makes sense -- it takes an incredible amount of self-confidence and cunning to show up as a guest in another man's house and devise a plan to seduce said man's wife underneath the nose of his host with the sole purpose of stealing her. It takes nerve to challenge that man later on the field of battle, knowing his reputation as a warrior. And as for the bow and arrow, Heracles was known for employing one, too, and I don't know anyone who would consider him a coward.

I also talk a little bit about Paris of Troy and my perspective on his character -- give it a listen if you missed it before! (Yes, general mythic spoilers abound. I mean. Not spoilers SPECIFIC to the book but general if you don't already know the myths style spoilers.)

And lastly -- as a semi-related post of context:

The beginnings of the Trojan War go back even farther than Paris's ill-considered judgement. (There be, again, general mythic spoilers -- not necessarily spoilers specific to the book itself so much as just discussion of the myths from which it is drawn.)

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!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Audiobook Giveaway for By Helen's Hand!

We're EXACTLY ONE WEEK away from release day for By Helen's Hand (May 10!) and what better way to celebrate than with a giveaway!

We're already in the final week countdown for the Goodreads Giveaway hosted by Lake Union/Amazon Publishing -- so definitely make sure you've entered to win one of those 20 paperback copies of BHH. But NATURALLY I've got something special for you guys on the blog. Are you ready?

#NamethatSuitor for a chance to win one beautiful audiobook edition (your choice of MP3 or Audio CD!) AND an owl pendant to match Helen's armband/bracelet on the cover art! 

You have until Sunday, May 8th at 11:59pm, Eastern. (US only, sorry!) More details and extra entry opportunities in the rafflecopter widget below!

BUT FIRST, The (Suitable) Quote --

You've seen this quote before, but can you #NameThatSuitor?!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Just in case you need a little bit more help -- the most boldly named suitors in this wordle are the ones who appear in the book :)