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I had originally intended to use this 13th century B.C. image of charioteers from Tiryns for the cover of Orestes: The Outcast, but the wear and tear on the fresco, and the unevenness of the checkered border made it unlikely.



There is a female counterpart of this image, in which a woman drives a chariot with her female friend as a passenger. So noblewomen could and did drive in those days.



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Minoan inspiration sometimes creeps into the fashion world in unusual ways, as seen in this image below. I have no idea where a woman would wear this outfit, though.



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A cut away view inside the so-called Treasury of Atreus, showing what a Mycenaean funeral might have looked like. Tholoi were not built as individual burial monuments, but as family tombs. As family members died, the older burials would be moved to the side to make room for the most recent. Oftentimes, the older bones would be washed with wine and placed inside an ossuary called a larnax, and the grave goods shifted over.  Or sometimes, the older burials would be dug into the earthen floor.  At least one such burial was hidden from tomb robbers, and survived to be found by archaeologists.

Here, you can see the most recent burial, laid out in the center of the burial chamber.  The door on the side leads into a smaller burial chamber.



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I am only into Chapter Two of the first draft, so we're nowhere near completing this mammoth book, but the cover artwork will give you something to look forward to.

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A little humor.



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I enrolled Orestes: The Outcast in Amazon's KDP Select Program, which means I shouldn't be publishing it anywhere else until mid-May. However, I seem to be losing sales because it isn't available in any other format but Kindle. So I opted out of the KDP Program, which means only that I don't want automatic renewal. If an Amazon Prime member sampled/leased a book and opted to buy from there, I would not receive that royalty, but in checking my sales reports, readers are not coming to my work through Amazon Prime, so I'm not really concerned.

Therefore, I give you Orestes: The Outcast on Smashwords, with all its various formats (iBook, .pdf, .mobi, etc.) Now go out there and BUY, so I can comfortably settle into working on The High King.

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From an issue of Ancient Warfare magazine, a reconstruction of the megaron at Thebes based on archaeological evidence. You can see how absolutely garish the colors would have been. I have heard that at the issue's press time, the artist hadn't finished rendering the floor decorations, so pretend that the king--Oedipus? Creon?--is having the megaron renovated, and has hustled the painters out in order to receive important ambassadors, perhaps from Mycenae or Pylos.



After a week's rest, I have started on Orestes: The High King. I'm not offering these books in any format other than Kindle because there are too many issues with doing so. iBooks requires an exclusive contract, Smashwords sees very little sales to make it worth it, and I don't know how to format the text and images for print, and don't have the money to pay anyone to do it for me.
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A reconstruction of the fresco found in the Room of the Lilies in Akrotiri, Santorini. A vision of Theran spring--lilies growing among volcanic rocks, and two swallows cavorting above--before the eruption completely sterilized the island.



Swallows are common in Crete and all around the Cyclades, except for Santorini.  From the Theran Spring fresco, it's clear they once inhabited the island; the 1600 B.C. eruption must have been so massive that it must have imprinted "DANGER! AVOID!" on all subsequent swallow generations.

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Today, I finally figured out how to pronounce Pylades. It's [pi'la' deez] Believe it or not, I'd been struggling with the correct pronunciation for two years, but was simply too lazy to look it up.

In other news, I am outlining the forty-nine year period that will make up Orestes: The High King. As I do this, I'm having to calculate everyone's ages. Right now, I'm on Year 22. 

This book will feature the Herakleidai and the Dorians, who have been mentioned in passing in the previous two books.  Nestor of Pylos and Telemachus will make appearances, but not Odysseus.  And yes, there will be battles and hunting scenes.  I haven't yet included those in the trilogy.

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It has arrived.



Seven years have passed since Orestes witnessed the savage murder of his father Agamemnon and fled for his life.

Now, aged twenty, he is ready to reclaim his birthright as king of Mycenae, and avenge his father’s murder—by killing his own mother, a crime that will label him a matricide. He will be shunned by all men, and hounded into madness by the demonic Erinyes, the relentless Daughters of Night. Orestes’ only hope of redemption lies in trial by sanity, an ordeal which will take him to the very edge of terror. Will he survive as a whole man, and receive ritual purification in order to claim his throne, or will he perish in the attempt?

Available on Amazon Kindle.

Note: I'm just coming up for air after this book, so be patient for the third and final book, The High King. That one will be as large as the first two books put together.

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I just submitted Helen’s Daughter for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel 2012 contest, mostly because it cost nothing and could not hurt.  But I have no illusions that I will win anything.  I am not the type of person who wins contests, or is chosen first for anything.  Also, I have seen the novels which won in previous years: agents and publishers want the same kind of pretentious literary crap my college instructors tried to push on me twenty years ago.  But I am NOT a pretentious, abstract, literary crap-type writer.  Yes, I would like to win that $15k publishing contract, but it is not very likely.  Nor is it likely that I will ever win a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize, or have my books appear on a college course reading list.  But that’s okay.  I write what interests me, and I hope others are entertained, too.

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First news of the New Year: the first draft of Orestes: The Outcast is finished, at 78,000 words; it is a short book, with The High King, the final book in the trilogy, set to be much longer.  I am now combing through The Outcast, weeding out typos and editing for content.  It should be ready by late January or early February.

November and December were great months for Helen’s Daughter.  Somehow, this book is selling far better than The Young Lion.  Do readers simply prefer novels with female protagonists?  Don’t shy away from the Orestes Trilogy!  Plenty of Mycenaean pageantry, adventure, and intrigue to soak up!

On an end note, some recent cartoons: Orestes and Hermione holiday shopping at IKEA Corinth, and the pair on Christmas morning.  The latter will be a diptych image, with Elektra and Pylades facing.

Note: if your eyes are good, you might be able to make out the Snake Goddess on the tree.





 

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Orestes is in trouble with Elektra and Hermione over his newly delivered 1249 B.C. nudie calendar. Poor guy can never catch a break.

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Some comic artwork I did for my Orestes Twitter account. Hermione clings to Orestes, who gives the thumbs-up as Elektra pursues Pylades in the background.

Note the chariot nuts.
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Funds permitting, I would like to do another Minoan doll, this time one of the three Blue Ladies from Knossos. They’re not actually dressed in blue, just posed against a blue background. Here, you can see my faithful watercolor rendering of the ladies, with their pearl-bound tresses and patterned orange jackets.



But wait, you say, how can you do a doll when you don’t know what the bottom looks like?

Well, there is another fresco from Knossos which shows ladies line-dancing. They wear the same orange jackets, with tiered blue and orange skirts.

In fact, the Dancing Girl fresco in the so-called Queen’s Megaron also wears the orange jacket, which makes me wonder whether the orange jacket/blue skirt combination might have been what the priestesses at Knossos wore.

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The fresco fragment known as the Lady of Mycenae was found in the Cult House below the palace of Mycenae. She is a rather stolid older lady, with ample arms and a sagging chin, offering necklaces to a deity.

Even though it isn’t a very scientific line of thinking, and there is no evidence that the Mycenaeans understood portraiture in the modern sense, my instincts tell me the woman behind the fresco must have been either Elektra or Clytaemnestra.
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I realize I have been neglecting my journal lately. But I have been working diligently on finishing Orestes: The Outcast, and on crafting this 1-inch scale doll: The Minoan Snake Priestess.

Each of those fringes was hand-applied; each row took about 2-3 hours to complete. Yes, she is holding a coiled snake around her left hand, and the background is the Throne Room fresco from Knossos; the picture was taken prior to her being settled in her shadow box. Pictures of that will follow once I can get around the reflection off the glass.





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The cover artwork for book two of the Orestes Trilogy: The Outcast. It should be out by mid to late January, or February.

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A lovely gold and blue glass child’s ring from a fourteenth century B.C. tomb near Thebes. Such exquisite craftsmanship and simple elegance would, with a bit of restoration, sell in any modern-day Manhattan or Beverly Hills fine jewelry boutique.

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A Minoan seal stone discovered during the most recent excavations at Vrysinas, near Rethymnon, Crete.  At one time, Vrysinas was an important Minoan peak sanctuary; the seal dates from the First Palace period (1900-1700 B.C.)  It is red jasper, and is carved on all four sides with Minoan hieroglyphics which are not Linear A.  In fact, the seal stone appears to be the earliest example of Minoan Hieroglyphic script yet discovered.

You can read more about the find here.

March 2012

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