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?
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.
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.
Orestes: The Young Lion has its first review, and it's a five-star one. Wow! I was having such doubts over whether people would like the book, and whether it was worth it to start the second one, but this fires me up again.
I normally don't find "the early years" parts of historical bio very interesting, but Ms. Gill makes the telling of Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, and scion of the cursed house of Atreus, very compelling. In particular, I think the author does two things very well...
First, the author does a very good job dealing with the psychology of Orestes. Orestes reveres his absentee father, and at times, has to come to grips with the fact that Agamemnon was not a very nice man. His interactions with his mother and stepfather are also interesting from a psychological standpoint. Orestes' relationship with his tutor was also heartwarming. But the most interesting aspect, I thought, was Orestes' attempting to come to grips with his destiny, namely that he is cursed to kill his own mother.
Secondly, I was surprised at how, at least in my mind, accurately Ms. Gill was able to get into the mind of a young boy. As a dabbling writer myself, I always find it daunting to attempt to narrate from a feminine point of view, but Orestes rings true as a very compelling boy and young man, with all the emotions, impatience of youth, and flaws portrayed beautifully.
I eagerly await the second installment of this story!
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.
I should be finished with The Young Lion edits and formatting by Sunday, and the book might be available by Wednesday if all goes well. It will cost about $2.75 for 104,000 words as well as a map, which is actually a pretty good price considering a paperback version would cost four times that. Now I just need to find reviewers.
I just submitted The Young Lion to my beta reader at 106,000 words. We'll see what he thinks. I am simply exhausted after 16 days of editing, and need a nap.
Meanwhile, have some artwork. A Mycenaean woman standing outside in the courtyard seeing two men off. You just know she's about to tell the man talking to her that, "My eyes are up here." Unfortunately, I don't know who the artist is.
I am not neglecting my journal on purpose, but am busy editing The Young Lion, which, at roughly 110k, is a very demanding job. It still has to be beta read, and additional changes may need to be made, but you should be seeing it on Kindle within the next four weeks.
Below: a view of Mycenae from the Chavos ravine.
It looks like I will be releasing the first Orestes book, The Young Lion, sometime this summer, once the drafts and editing are completed. My only concern is the readers on Fiction Press and Fanfiction.com who are waiting for more chapters, and whether they'll resent having to pay to read the edited version, plus the rest of the story. I don't view the situation as being that mercenary, and have no intention or desire to appear cutthroat, but they might see it that way. I have posted a note on my profile page explaining the new development.
So expect to see a cover in the coming weeks. I'm not far from the end of Book One, but foresee having to go back and flesh things out.
Meanwhile, have some Blue Ladies from Knossos.
Dreamwidth sent me some codes, if anyone needs one.
Also, I am rapidly progressing toward the end of the first book of what will a trilogy. I simply can't get the whole Orestes story into one novel, otherwise it will run about 300,000 words, and cost $10 on Kindle. As it is, I am still trying to gauge whether or not readers will buy the three installments.
The first book will be titled The Young Lion.
People may think they're already reading the story for free on Fiction Press and Fanfiction.com. It's simply a rough draft, to gauge reader interest in the story; it is not the finished project, and it's very likely that the entire first book won't be posted online.
Once the draft is finished, then the really grueling work begins. I predict entire scenes might be cut, while others will be refined. Certain characters may need work to make them more believable. The dialogue has to be double-checked to make sure no glaring modernisms creep in. Descriptions have to be double-checked to make certain they're not repeated; Elektra, for example, is described as a lioness several times throughout the book.
The second book is tentatively titled The Madman of Mycenae, and deals with the double murders of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus, and the madness and purification of Orestes.
The third book is The High King, and deals with Orestes' long reign.