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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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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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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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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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The Phaistos Disk is one of those archaeological oddities that defies explanation.  It was discovered during excavations of the Minoan palace of Phaistos in southern Crete in July 1908.  The disk was found in the main chamber of an underground repository thick with ashes and dark black earth, but few artifacts apart from some burnt cow bones and a fragment of a Linear A tablet; the rooms above appear to have collapsed during an earthquake.

Most historians and archaeologists agree that the Phaistos Disk is authentic, though experts have not been able to determine an exact date for the artifact, or explain its function or purpose.  It may be a record of a religious offering, or even an ancient board game.

45 pre-processed clay stamps were used to produce the writing on both sides of the disk, making it the earliest known example of movable type in the world.  However, the script may or may not be Linear A; no one can quite agree on what language the disk is written in.  It may be some unknown syllabary or alphabet, and the fact that there are no other examples of the script makes deciphering the disk all the more difficult.

You can peruse some of the attempts at decipherment here, though keep in mind that most of the claims are pure pseudoscience.

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𐀪   𐂁

Linear B ideograms meaning “man” and “woman,” respectively.

 

As a correction to a statement I made in an earlier post, Linear B does appear to have had some diphthongs, but they are separate signs, and the script still does not represent all the sounds (such as the liquid /l/, /g/, and /h/) that the spoken language must have had.

I am slowly working on Orestes: The Outcast, the second book in the trilogy, but also trying to get the word out there about The Young Lion and Helen’s Daughter.  If you read and liked either book, please pass the word along (and let me know your thoughts, of course!).

Hermione

Sep. 6th, 2011 02:19 pm
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Hermione, daughter of Menelaus and Helen of Sparta, is the heroine of my novel Helen's Daughter.  All that is known about her is that she spent the duration of the Trojan War at Mycenae with her aunt Clytaemnestra, and was later married to both Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, and then to Orestes, to whom she bore a son, Tisamenus.  The reason I have not posted an image of her is because there are none to be found.  Beside her infamous mother and aunt, Hermione is a non-entity, an also-ran.  If she existed--and there is no reason to assume she did not--she must have lived a very quiet life.

There is more than one version of the Hermione-Orestes-Neoptolemus triangle.  In Books 4 and 5 of Homer's Odyssey, the Spartan court celebrates the wedding of Hermione and Neoptolemus; the marriage to Orestes is never mentioned.  Other sources state that Neoptolemus stole Hermione, either from her grandfather's house, or from Orestes himself.  Hermione herself is simply a commodity to be given away, stolen, or reclaimed.  Like their fathers, Orestes and Neoptolemus are reduced to fighting over a woman.

Euripides in his Andromache portrays Hermione and her father Menelaus as spiteful and murderous, plotting against Andromache and her newborn son; Jean Racine took up this thread many centuries later in his Andromaque, with Hermione as a treacherous and capricious cock-tease, goading a lovesick Orestes into murdering Neoptolemus, then changing her mind, rejecting Orestes, and killing herself.

Keep in mind that Euripides was an Athenian playwright working at the height of the Peloponnesian War, and Andromache is a piece of anti-Spartan propaganda.  Later, in his Orestes, he would portray Hermione as a docile creature who ends up a hostage as Orestes puts a knife to her throat while the palace of Sparta burns around them.

Ovid wrote about Hermione in his Heroides (the Heroines), a collection of "letters" written by fourteen heroines from mythology to their absent lovers.  In Epistle VIII, Ovid's Hermione writes to Orestes, urging him to save her from her forced marriage to Neoptolemus.  In these excerpts, Hermione complains that it is the lot of the women in her family to be abducted:

Hermione speaks to one lately her cousin and husband,

now her cousin. The wife has changed her name.

Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, proud, in his father’s image,

holds me imprisoned contrary to piety and justice.

I have refused what I could, so as not be held against my will,

a woman’s hand has not the power to do more....

 

Deafer than the sea, he dragged me under his roof,

my hair unbound, and I calling on Orestes’s name.

How could I have endured worse, as a slave in a captured Sparta,

if a barbarian horde were to seize a daughter of Greece?

Andromache was less abused by victorious Achaia,

when Greek flames might have burnt the wealth of Troy.

But you, Orestes, if my affectionate care for you moves you,

take possession of me, without cowardice, as is your right!

You’d surely take up arms if someone snatched your cattle

from the closed stable, will you be slower for a captive wife?

...

Don’t ready a thousand ships with swelling canvas

or hosts of Greek warriors: come yourself!

Yet if I too were won back in this way, it’s no shame for a husband

to have endured fierce war for his dear marriage bed.

Why, since Atreus, Pelop’s son, is our mutual grandfather,

even if you weren’t my husband, you’d still be my cousin.

Husband, I beg you, aid your wife, cousin aid your cousin:

both titles urge you to perform your duty.

...

I am violated, and my face swells with feeling,

and my inflamed emotions grieve me with hidden fires.

Who has not taunted Orestes in Hermione’s presence:

I have no power, there’s no cruel sword here!

Truly I can weep: I diffuse anger in weeping,

and tears flow like streams over my breast.

I have only these, always, and always I pour them out:

they wet my neglected cheeks, from a perennial fountain.

Surely, by the fate of my race, that tracks us through the years,

the mothers of Tantalus’s line are suited to be prey?

...

 

In this epistle, Hermione also reveals her feelings toward her mother:

 

Why must I complain that a troubled destiny harms me?

My childhood was motherless: father was at the war:

and while both lived, I was bereaved of both.

Not for you, my mother, the charming lispings of those tender years,

spoken by your daughter’s uncertain mouth.

I did not clasp your neck with tiny arms,

or sit, a welcome burden, on your lap.

You didn’t tend my dress, nor on my marriage

did I enter a new marriage bed, prepared by my mother.

When you returned I came out to meet you – I confess the truth –

my mother’s face was not familiar!

Yet I knew you were Helen, as you were the most beautiful:

you yourself asked which child was your daughter.

 

Such dramatic potential was what drew me to Hermione as a heroine.  There were many places where I had to fill in the blanks, or compromise between contradictory versions, but the result is, I think, a convincing portrait of a Mycenaean noblewoman who has known her share of resentment and love, and has had to fend for herself.


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Publishing your own book is not easy.  Writing, editing, and formatting Helen's Daughter took thirteen months, with breaks in between to work on Orestes: The Young Lion.  I now spend most of my time in historical fiction forums chatting and trying to get the word out there.  Also, playing Gardens of Time on Facebook.  *blush*  I have not done any writing since the beginning of August.  Painting and watching TV, yes.  Writing, no.  It feels very strange.

Many reviewers do not consider self-published novels, with good reason.  Last week, I submitted my novel to two sites which do consider self-published work, and on Sunday thought I had a nibble when an interested reviewer contacted me about getting a copy.  So I emailed her a .pdf, only to hear back that she was expecting a print book.  I guess she didn't see the part that said the publisher was Amazon Kindle.  I thanked her for her interest, anyway, and am now back to square one.

So if you plan to go this route, be prepared to work just as hard marketing as you did writing.  But I have certain standards about marketing myself.  I have seen many self-published authors spam forums about their releases.  Or worse, create sockpuppets to review and promote themselves.  I believe that such behavior actually turns potential readers off; it's just as important to foster goodwill with readers as it is to write a good book.  So I refuse to engage in any chicanery or spamming.  You will not see me reviewing my own work.  I am actually the worst judge of my own work, anyway.

P.S. I am looking to write more posts for my blog, but would like to hear from readers as to what topics on the Mycenaean and Minoan world they are interested in that I have not already covered.


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Orestes: The Young Lion is now available through Smashwords, in a variety of e-formats.  More readers should be able to enjoy the story now.

 

Note:  I know none of my readers would engage in file-sharing or any other illegal activity, but I am obliged to mention it anyway.  I am self-published, which means 70% of the royalties go to me, not to an agent or publisher.  I worked a long time on this book, and worked very hard.  For six months, it was the equivalent of a full time job.  There is no such thing as an advance in electronic publishing, so my sales are it as far as income is concerned.  People who participate in file-sharing are engaged in theft, no matter what the reason, and thus they are depriving me of the fruits of my labor. 

If you liked the book, mention it to your friends, but don't give them free copies.  Smashwords allows readers to preview sample chapters for free.  $2.99 is a small price to pay for an ebook of 105,300 words.

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